If you search “habit” on Amazon, you’ll find over 40,000 results of journals, leadership books, and trackers. Habit transformations, habits of leaders - pick your topic, and I can bet you there’s some book that claims that habits will make you better in that department.
I’m admittedly one of these cult members - not so much for the leadership books, but I love some habits. I am a routine person all the way. I have to make a conscious mental effort to acknowledge the discomfort and do it anyway. Thanks, therapy.
The catch? I love habits so much that I didn’t even realize they were making me miserable. Well, not until I was sitting in my closet at 5 am, crying as I got dressed to work out. I was tired. I needed rest. But that little voice of habit in my head said, “get through it. You can do it.”
Now, I know there’s some portion of people reading this thinking, “willpower!” If you caught me a few months ago, I’d be with you, but we need to get on the same page here. You know that’s fucked up, right? You should not be sobbing through something that’s “good for you.”
While a formulaic, habit-filled approach works for some outcomes like weight loss goals, habits are not a simple formula for happiness. We can’t just march through life and expect that on the other side of all that regiment is the reward of joy. That’s not how this shit works, or so I’ve learned.
So, I went on a mission to redesign my routine. I’ve been willingly disrupting my patterns to find what feels best for me. Whether it’s trying out a four-day workweek (hated it), a new meal plan (love it, surprisingly), or changing my morning routine to read, I’m willing to try anything. I want to know what makes me feel good, not what works for everyone else.
Admittedly, the minor habit changes almost instantly helped. I was so much happier and creative when I spent 15 minutes reading business books in the morning before going to my desk. The time to ponder and question my approach has already positively impacted my life and Three Ears Media.
Then I broke all my quarantine routines, and I got on an airplane. I held my niece for the first time since she arrived on this planet ten months ago, and I realized within minutes that happiness has very little to do with habits at all. Happiness is living in the moment, paying attention, and recognizing the miracles that exist inside of every person who shows up in our lives.
It’s happy right now instead of wondering when or worrying about everything I can not control. It’s flow. It’s loving the moment and admitting when things aren’t working. It’s not marching through the day with a tear-stained face knowing I “got it done.”
Habits aren’t the heroes that will bring us happiness. It’s the people we encounter and the love that makes life worth it. It’s good and evil, the lessons learned, and even in the leaving behind. It’s breaking down every rule we’ve set up for our lives in an attempt to convince ourselves we have to work harder to have what we want.
It’s writing a letter to let people in on the secret that grand gestures and other people do not save you. Mundane everyday things in your life do.
PS I also hope you’ll take a minute to read the blog this week. It’s all about a habit I wish people would break - writing awful technical job postings. I created a how-to that can help your team figure it out.