What is a habit?
Habits are behaviors that build up over repetition and/or time. Smoking is a habit. Checking your phone when you wake up is a habit. Brushing your teeth is habit.
A habit is like a train
Trains are big and heavy. Does it take energy to move a train? Yes. Does it take a lot of energy? Yes, especially at the beginning. I brush my teeth one morning. The first time may be difficult. I need to go to the store. I need to buy a toothbrush. I need to buy toothpaste. I need to watch a Youtube video on how to brush teeth. It takes a lot of energy. The next morning, it gets a little easier. I already have a toothbrush and toothpaste. I already watched the video. I can brush my teeth. I do it again and again. After 30 mornings, there is momentum. Brushing my teeth today also has the power of every other morning. Now, even if I miss 1 morning, the train is still moving. Now, I am brushing my teeth every day. Now, it’s a habit.
Habits go 2 ways
Here’s the problem. Habits are always forming.
If I brush my teeth today. I am building the habit of brushing my teeth.
if I DON’T brush my teeth today. I am building the habit of NOT brushing my teeth.
This is especially dangerous for procrastinating. Many people think… I will start tomorrow. I want to get better, but not today. If you put things off today. It is easier to put it off tomorrow. And then putting things off will become your habit. Habits are always forming.
This is very important. I hear people say things about themselves:
I am not good at speaking English– Every student
This thought becomes a habit. These students get used to thinking they are bad. Now, they have to break that habit first, before they can get better. They have to stop the other train first, before they can get the new train going.
Consider habits carefully
My mom used to fart in private, at home. At some point, she got used to farting at home. Eventually, she just farted at home automatically. Sometimes, I would be at home with my friends, and my mom would come in. And then, BRRRRRRAAAAAAP. My friends would giggle. My mom would apologize flatly. I would be horrified. She could not stop herself.
My favorite example is from Magic Johnson.
“One day, it was 17 degrees below zero. It was really cold, and as a young kid I couldn’t stand it. So I ran out of the truck, picked up some of the trash, then ran back in.”
As soon as he closed the truck door, his father opened it and dragged him out. Johnson recalls his father saying, “There’s trash stuck in the ice, son. If you do your life half way, that’s how you’ll practice basketball, that’s how you’ll do your homework—you’ll always be a person who doesn’t finish the job.”
“That just stung me to get out of the truck, pick up my shovel, and chop the ice around the barrel until I’d picked up all of the trash,” he says. “That day, that moment, changed my life. From that point on I did everything the right way, and I became a perfectionist.”
Maybe at bad jobs or with bad bosses, people do not do their best work. Maybe those jobs don’t deserve the best work. However, doing minimum work can become a habit. That behavior hurts you.
Habits are powerful. They are always forming. Choose your habits carefully, and you can mold yourself into the person you want to be now and for the rest of your life.