It’s In Your Habits
The Habit Difference
Let me state clearly, I’m not about to give up any of my daily habits. They provide me with too much comfort. My daily habits:
— make me feel like I have control — in a world where we really have no control.
— provide a schedule so I’m not just sitting on the couch eating carbs.
— make me feel like I’ve gotten something done in the day — even if it’s a chimera.
— allow me to look good to others — friends think I’m disciplined.
— make me feel good about myself — even on days my life feels questionable.
But let’s have another conversation about habits.
There are a ton of words expended on the web about acquiring better habits and millions of dollars spent on books that promise to reveal the habits of the most successful people. I am one who often spends on such tomes — eager to find the secret that will easily allow me to become a more successful human. Many of these books are filled with great stories and have terrific suggestions.
But as I’ve thought about better habits and how to cultivate them, I decided the conversation about habits needs to start by understanding that habits come in two buckets:
— Habits that help me control the day so I don’t go completely off the rails
Examples: Daily Review, Early Rise, Diet
— Habits that expand me so I can explore my space of creativity & fulfillment
Examples: Meditation, Intense Exercise, Daily Reading
Knowing the difference has helped me clarify which habits I want to cultivate more mindfully and which habits I can ease up on. Don’t get me wrong, I think all my habits are important. But, learning to prioritize my habits — especially when they’re new — is important to achieving success.
I intend to stick with my daily habits. I even plan to develop some new ones so I can at least pretend that I’m on the way to becoming a better human being 🙂
If you’re on the same path, below are a few books and other resources that might help you improve your habits — or at least impress your neighbors with your discipline 🙂
Questions I invite you to consider as you read & explore:
- What are you regular habits?
- How do they serve you?
- What habits will expand you emotionally, physically, mentally?
- Are there new habits you’d like to explore?
- Can you be more creative with your current habits?
TOOLS OF TITANS and THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK BY TIM FERRISS
In recent years Tim Ferriss has become the poster child for better habits. His many books, The Four Hour Work Week, The Four Hour Body, The Four Hour Chef and most recently Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors have made him millions of dollars and turned him into a one-man franchise.
Some people dismiss Ferriss, but that is a disservice to his work as well as your own personal growth. Personally, I love his work and his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. It’s full of great information, unique guests and useful tips. Not to mention, he’s a terrific interviewer — there’s a lot to learn from Tim about listening and asking great questions.
THE IMPERFECTIONISTS BY TOM RACHMAN
Tom Rachman, a former journalist with the International Herald Tribune, has written a string of chapters about the professional and personal lives of the men and women working at an unnamed English language newspaper in Rome. The newspaper is teetering on extinction and the men and women responsible for its existence are riddled with bad habits. There’s likely not a happy ending.
Not surprisingly, Rachman’s debut novel was optioned for the screen by Brad Pitt’s production company in 2010 but was later dropped. The latest buzz I saw was that it was slated for the small screen by the BBC.
MASTERMIND BY MARIA KONNIKOVA
Whenever I wonder if books *really* have any power, I remind myself of characters from fiction who we speak of as if they were real people. Characters like Sherlock Holmes — who we study to find out how they lived and thought. A meme if there ever was one!
[Here’s a bit: Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist coined the word meme in his book, The Selfish Gene.]
As Nina Bai writes in her Scientific American review of Konnikova’s books,
Long before science revealed that synapses fire in patterns, literature endeavored to map the cognitive landscape. From Odysseus restraining himself against the Sirens’ song to Tom Sawyer conning his way out of painting fences, fictional characters have captured many nuances of human psychology. Perhaps no character has articulated the science of thinking as directly as Sherlock Holmes, the great consulting detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Using the characters of Sherlock Holmes & his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson, Konnikova explores scientific research and practical methods to improve our patterns/habits of observations, thinking and mindfulness.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME BY MARK HADDON
When Mark Haddon’s award winning book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime first appeared, it was variously claimed to be a book about Asberger’s Syndrome, high functioning autism or savant syndrome. Haddon refuted these claims writing on his blog, “…if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way.”
So what does all this have to do with habits?
Christopher John Francis Boone, the 15 year old protagonist, has a habit of thinking that is different from everyone around him. He can’t always explain it (as Sherlock Holmes is able to explain his habit of thinking to Watson) and those around him certainly don’t understand his habit of thinking. But, his habit of thinking is no less valid.
How often do we dismiss people because their habits of processing the world are different from our own? How often might we grow — reach a new chapter — if we got into an uncomfortable spot in our brains and explored a new habit of thinking?
Additional Thought-Provoking Resources:
At the risk of encouraging the bad habit of getting swallowed up in You Tube Videos, below are three talks from the best-selling authors and researchers on habits, their formation and the habits of those who succeed.
TED Talk: Forget Big Change, Start with a Tiny Habit by BJ Fogg.