Habit Fad

Two days ago I wrote that I’d “techniqued” myself into inaction. I was trying to do so many things, seemingly all at the same time, that I could do none of them well, and some of them not at all.

There’s what I’ll call a fad right now that says improving yourself — be it your productivity, your accomplishments, your health, your whatever — is all about establishing the proper habits. There are a multitude of blog posts, articles, and books on how to go about doing that.

It has a fad-like feeling to me. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few years from now we’ll haved moved on to a different productivity or self-improvement fadtechnique.

And yet, at a practical level, I’m paying attention. Fads often carry nuggets of wisdom.

You might note that my recovery from trying to do too much is a relatively structured approach to doing fewer things for “a while”, and then seeing both which of those things would stick and be beneficial, and then incrementally adding, or replacing with something new.

The 30 day time frame for “a while” was not arbitrary. It’s a timeframe that, supposedly, allows us to build a habit. Do something consistently for thirty days and — boom — a habit is born. Supposedly. I’m not convinced it’s that formulaic, but it’s certainly feels like a reasonable foundation for habit building.

I would like those things I decide are beneficial and worth keeping to become habits, thus I want to commit to enough time to give that a chance of happening.

To me habits are desirable not because you end up doing them mindlessly. Certainly that happens for some things, usually smaller in scope. Consider meditation, which has become a habit, and is anything but mindless, almost by definition.

What makes a habit valuable to me is that it then feels weird not to do it. On days where I don’t meditate something’s missing. At the appointed time of day, something’s off, something’s not quite right.

Rather than a habit being something that acts as a force to encourage me to take action, it also feels like a force that discourages me from not taking action. Semantically those are two very similar things, but when it comes to personal motivation the subtle difference is significant.

As a result, along with all the reasons I meditate is another: it would feel odd not to.

From what I can tell that’s a side effect of it having become a habit. A side effect that — fad or not — I’d like to put to use for other purposes as well.