Inside the Mind of a Habit Former

Ten things I’ve learned from the past few months of developing a new habit

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Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, and a speaker, once said in this article, “New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is not an outcome, it is a process. It is a series of habits.”

Bad habits are easy to form and hard to eliminate. I experienced it firsthand a few years ago, when I wrote about my attempt at losing weight here. At the time, I was in my mid-thirties with two children, and never completely lost the weight I gained with my second baby. Plus, I’d come to the realization that my lifestyle choices (snacking in the afternoon on chips, too much coffee, etc.) was contributing to a slight weight gain, which I felt uncomfortable acknowledging.

As much as I’d like to tell you that my story ends there — that I somehow figured out the magic solution to continuing my journey towards being fit, I did not figure it out, and my story came to a halt for several years…until the pandemic hit.

We can blame the pandemic for creating major upheaval in our lives, but one thing that it did for me was allow me to reflect upon my life choices. Suddenly, I was without a job. And suddenly, I realized that I did not want to emerge from this darkness of the pandemic without feeling like I had accomplished something.

Since I ran my first 5K two years ago, I had fallen into the trap of someone who could not, would not find a way to continue what I knew was a good habit. Perhaps it’s because of what Elizabeth Segran said in her book, The Rocket Years: How the Twenties Launch the Rest of Your Life, habits get harder to develop and maintain the older we get. Somehow, our brains have developed the ability to be on autopilot. As our lives become easier, she says, we tend not to focus our energy on everyday things that are surely a habit done out of necessity — for example, brushing your teeth, grocery shopping, cooking, showering, etc — because that would mean we’d become overwhelmed. We’d rather focus our energy on problem solving or creativity or projects at work.

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Photo by Andrew Tanglao on Unsplash

So I began to run again, after a two-year hiatus. Here are ten things that I’ve learned in the past five months of doing a consistent activity.

  1. There is a difference between a habit and a hobby. At first, the lines were blurry — I couldn’t distinguish the difference. But once I began to run on a regular, consistent schedule (3–4 times per week, mostly in the mornings), I realized that in order to develop a hobby, you must first turn it into a habit — something you do regularly. Thus, if you don’t have a desire to go running, you won’t do it, and you won’t do it unless you’ve already formed the impression in your mind that it is a habit.

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Drinks too much coffee and writes about business, culture, parenting and personal finance. More writing here

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