Actions to habits


Back to the thought to destiny theme, this third installment of the series is about action to habits.

The previous posts about this topic:

Thought drives action.
Action forms habit.
Habit creates character.
Character becomes destiny.
~ Swami Dhanurdhara

When we repeatedly do an action again and again, it becomes a habit. A habit is like a freeway on the brain, an express route. When an action is not a habit yet, every time we want to do the action, the brain has to go through a few processes, just like going through normal road with red lights, speed bumps, intersections etc.

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and some also say it’s one month, 6 weeks, etc. I don’t believe in one magic number, it really depends on our own unique brain, mind, situation & condition. Consistent repetition is the key.

To help the consistency, it helps to tie the new action with an existing habits. Lets say we want to develop a new habit of drinking more water. Choose an established existing habit, ideally is related to the new habit we want to develop, and tie this new action to that existing habit. Example – drink a glass of water after brushing teeth in the morning. After doing that consistently for sometime, the brain will form association between morning teeth brushing and drinking a glass of water, and the action will become more like routine, which is in other word, a habit.

That sounds easy, yes? Then why is it so hard to start good habits and stick with it?

One problem I noticed is that often the new habit is too big, it’s not actually a single action. In other words the new habit is too ambitious. Or maybe not very well defined. Example of a non-effective habit statememt, still with the drinking water thing, is something like this “drink more water every day”. It’s not effective because it’s not measurable and not specific. We don’t know how much have we drank and how much more we have to drink. The previous example of drinking a glass of water after brushing teeth in the morning is measurable (1 glass), and time-specific (after brushing teeth in the morning).

Try breaking down that new habit into small chunks, to several single actions that we can actually act on one at a time. And then choose one action and start with that. When that one is established as a habit, choose another action, and so on. With the drink more water example, after the morning one is established, add another habit like drinking a glass of water after brushing teeth in the evening.

I learned a lot about habits & action from these two blogs:

Head there for a wealth of information about creating and sticking to good habits and letting go bad ones.

Do you have any tips for creating & sticking with good habits? Do share!

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