bad habits

We are the accumulation of our long term habits.

If you have long term bad habits, the best thing you can do for yourself and those you care about is to replace them with good ones.

Habits are the things you do which make you, you.

Sometimes people get habits confused with goals, or with jobs.

‘I’m going to write every day until I’ve written my book,’ is not a habit.

‘I’m going to write everyday,’ is a habit.

Any habit with an end date is not a habit.

Goals get accomplished when your long term habits are good ones. Good habits put you in the best position to do good work, and good work leads to accomplishing big goals.

Bad habits provide short term relief and stunt long term progress. They get in your way.

Identify your bad habits and turn them into good ones.

Mine worst habit at the moment is c(ocaine)reating mess when I’m stressed, so I’m trying to turn tidying up into something I do to relieve stress.

It’s going to be hard work forcing myself to do it, and even harder work to find joy in it.

But it’ll only be hard for another week or three, then I’ll be dusting for the hell of it.

Your brain is as malleable as you allow it to be. Grab it like a ball of play-dough and get to work.

If you’re still having trouble, harness the power of accountability. Tell ten people that you’re going to change, and you probably will.

If ten isn’t enough, tell more and more people until the thought of letting the all down, admitting defeat and telling them you’ve failed is so exhausting that you might as well just do the work and make the change.

When your habits serve your goals and keep you happy and healthy in the process, life is at its best. Don’t get complacent.

Be the change you want to see in yourself, then worry about the world.

(To be clear, I was joking about the cocaine.)

On average, it takes two months for a new behaviour to become automatic.

It’s 11:37pm, and I haven’t published this blog post yet. I got distracted with another project, and here we are.

I will publish before midnight. But I wish I’d given myself more time.

This particular feeling lingers with a bitter familiar aftertaste.

Many of us taste this feeling often.

Two months is a tremendous amount of time for someone with an attention deficit disorder to routinely achieve something.

I’ve only just managed to do this with early mornings (well, at least three early mornings a week), and it’s required taking on a huge amount of social responsibility to keep me accountable.

I can’t write consistently or get out of bed unless I know that someone else will be impacted if I don’t.

I still find this very silly. But there’s no telling that to my zombie brain when it has a trigger finger poised over my snooze button.

I think this is why I’ve always favoured tasks and jobs which commend impulsivity over large scale organisation.

I thrive in places where quick thinking and dynamic problem solving are required to float, and I flounder when I think I have a month to do something, or when I don’t think anyone else really minds if I’m not working.

I believe this is why I first dropped out of uni.

I believe this is why I burned through seven jobs in three years, but wasn’t fired from any.

I believe this is why it has taken so much effort to structure my life in a fulfilling way.

If you recognise this feeling, the lurching of anticipated regret as a deadline looms closer, I beg you to stop whatever it is you’re doing, and ask yourself this question;

What could I do right now, which I’ll be proud I did tomorrow morning?

And do it.

It’s 11:48. I’m calling it a night. If there are typos, I’m sorry.

I promise I’ll wake up proud I published this anyway.

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I have a very bad habit of writing the word ‘very’ before words I want to emphasise. It’s very annoying.

When I use ‘very’, it doesn’t usually add anything to my sentence. I only write it because it it feels like it does.

In fact, the sentence, I have a bad habit. Is more powerful because it is more succinct.

If the habit in question is so bad that I can’t use ‘bad’, I should select a new word. I should have said;

I have an awful habit. I put the word ‘very’ before words I want to emphasise. It’s frustrating.

I subconsciously throw ‘very’ into sentences which I know aren’t yet complete, but don’t know how to deal with in the moment.

My subconscious surely hopes that ‘very’ charges the sentence with a sense of importance. Unfortunately, all it does it water the sentence down.

Since noticing this habit, ‘very’ has become a red flag. Whenever I see it, I know that I probably need to reword or restructure the sentence I’ve jammed it in.

This blog has made me better at this already, but I’m sure I have more bad habits which I’ll discover along the way.

This approach to simplifying your writing is effective across all mediums.

Next time you’re writing a tweet, a message to your Mum, or an email to your boss, focus not on adding words to articulate meaning or emphasis, but on carefully selecting as few words as possible to clearly communicate what you’re saying.

My favourite example of how effective succinct writing can be is this tragic six word story;

While it’s a cause of debate, the story was allegedly written by Ernest Hemingway, who was famous for his use of short sentences and direct prose.

Either way, there’s no arguing that those six words tell a more evocative story than anything else I’ve written in this post.

It paints a picture which makes you feel something, then leaves you with questions to ponder.

It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s concise.

It wouldn’t operate if you removed a single word, and I challenge you to think of any word to add which could improve it while still telling the same story.

My bet is that you can’t. All the fat has been trimmed. It’s as close to perfect as it can get.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery (albeit the lowest form of creativity), so I’ll leave you with a six word tale of my own;

New blog: Amateur writer. Trying hard.