Reigniting Habits

I don’t retain habits well. My habits wax and wane. They need constant renewal.

I derive pleasure from seeking out new things. Too often that squeezes out the old, even when the old helps me live my life more effectively.

Luckily, I’ve discovered it’s easier to re-ignite old habits than to start new ones. Each time I fail to maintain a habit, I don’t beat myself up. I let it go until I’m in a place to rekindle. Until I have the energy to fan the flames and build my habit anew.

I am in that place again.

Last month I started lifting weights again after a five month hiatus. While hard at first, I quickly grew in strength over just a few weeks. Then three weeks ago I started running again. I barely ran all winter long, and my body felt it. But instead of taking months to return to my old performance levels, it happened in only two weeks.

Our bodies and minds remember. Developing a habit once makes it easier to return to in the future. Every little bit helps.

I often forget this. If I have a trip coming up where I think I won’t be able to maintain a habit, I’ll wait until after the trip to start it. But this is wrong.

I should start now, and then if I falter during my trip, re-ignite the habit when I return. It’s easier to start a fire from simmering embers than cold, tired wood.

Last Friday, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote a post on why you should write daily. It reminded me of my previous experiments of writing regularly, a habit that has grown cold from disuse.

Today I’m re-igniting that habit and challenging myself to write at least 500 words every day for the month of May. At the end of the month I’ll re-evaluate and decide whether to continue or modify the habit.

To keep myself from getting bored, I’m planning to vary my writing. Ways I may write include:

  • Blog Posts
    Posts for this blog or Lean Decisions. I need to rebuild my backlog for Lean Decisions, so won’t publish all those posts immediately. I may also do some guest posts if the opportunity arises.
  • Journal Entries
    I haven’t regularly kept a journal in over 15 years.  Yet writing in a journal helps me recognize my accomplishments and think about my needs, desires and goals. Reading old entries has always brought me immense joy, bringing me back to a past that I only vaguely remember otherwise.
  • Guides
    I want to experiment with writing guides to help people, such as ways to improve your decisions or how to use shelves from Lowe’s to build a standing desk for under $100.

Writing e-mails and social media posts won’t count. Writing e-mail and social media updates may feel like writing, but it’s not nourishing for me. It doesn’t build long-term value. Instead, it’s a sugar rush, satisfying short-term desire, but not helping me to build a writing habit long-term.

What habits have you let go that you could re-ignite easily?

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