Today I signed up for Tinyhabits, which is intended to inculcate better habit formation. "Habits" often has negative connotations, but if you can train yourself to do good things without having to concentrate on them, you can drive consistent gains over the long term. Every additional slight improvement you make to yourself gradually results in being much better over the long term.
Tinyhabits concentrates on really small behavioral changes: trying to make sure you always floss after you brush your teeth, say. Or rather, it starts with even smaller changes: trying to make sure you always floss at least one tooth after you brush. That’s because that’s an easier habit to get consistent at, and then with that foundation, it’s easier to extend it until you’re reliably flossing all your teeth.
Some parts of this are second nature. I know that if I’m going to go for a run, I need to have all my gear laid out the night before so I don’t waste time thinking about getting ready the next day. You remove barriers so that the tasks you do are as simple as possible. But what I hadn’t really considered was vocalizing to myself that I’d succeeded every time I did one of those habits – by celebrating even the smallest victories, you should be training yourself to be more positive.
It’s also odd that I remember to make some things easier, and forget to do so in other areas. I am good at getting ready to go running, but I’m very forgetful when it comes to taking medication. I make things more difficult for myself by being messy, when I know that in the long run, I’m happier in a tidier environment. And I have a great struggle to go to bed when I know I should.
That’s not to say I’m irredeemable. I managed to identify and then kill my wasteful use of Twitter, and I have got better at going to bed when I should. But it’s a journey, a matter of identifying long term goals, and then trying to find as many small steps between here and there as you need to make the journey possible. Over the long stretch, Stakhanovite working processes don’t win out.
I wonder if, in a week, I’ll be better at rubbing my legs with my Stick, or doing proper exercise while showering, or remembering to practice my Spanish. We can only wait and see…