Habits are delicate

Good habits are easy to start, harder to uphold. And once you settle with doing 95% of what planned, it’s likely to see those percentages plummeting. I’m just speaking for myself. But it’s interesting to see what happened when I decided to stop posting my jams.

I didn’t stop making them. But I stopped finishing them. And when I think about it, it’s really the finishing part I need to practise. Coming up with ideas is easy, finishing is hard. A half-finished song/jam is a daydream – forever open to possibilities. Finishing is committing, realizing something didn’t turn out great. Wrapping the box up for storage.

I’ve lost count of my jams. Posting daily was a ritual, or at least on its way to become one. I left off at jam 22.

The behavioural scientist B J Fogg has a method for tiny habits which I took on this spring. His idea for success is to set the goal as small as possible – and then never raise the bar. His example: Everytime you brush your teeth. Floss one tooth. And then cheer yourself.

The principle is: 1. connect the new habit to an existing one 2. make it easy to succeed. 3. Celebrate

You are allowed to floss more teeth. But the idea is to never raise the threshold to succeeding.

Fogg himself has told about his habit to do one push-up after every time he goes to the bathroom. So, I decided to do the same, exchanging the push-up for “a dip”. I think I kept doing it for a few months, but the idea somehow waned from my mind. I started to forget the habit every other time and now it doesn’t exist anymore.

So, what I’ve found is that habits are delicate. They are very easily lost.

Then, there are things that seem to help. I got an Apple Watch in december. In January and February I was tracking my activity with no clear goal. Yet, in March I decided to see if I could reach my daily activity goal for 30 days in a row. I could. So I decided to go for a 100. Yesterday, I passed that challenge. And now? Let’s make it 200.

The gamification set-up of my watch works – for me. I don’t mind being reminded, I don’t get annoyed by the silliness of the watch texting me in the morning I did great yesterday. It’s a part of the game. The watch rewards me with points “closing my circles” and I can see every effort getting counted. Over the last 100 days there have been quite a few times that I’ve had to (willingly) force myself out to go for a run, walk to the recycling bins late at night to get my activity done before midnight.

A finding is that it’s really important to get off to a good start in the morning. That way there’s nothing hanging over me during the day. A bonus point is that I’m never asked to take the recycling to the bins – since they have already been taken.

So, since I’m successful with reaching my exercise goals. I think it makes sense to see how I could incorporate the same principles/structures for my music making. I’ve used a habit tracker on paper for a long time (not the last few months) – and I’ve just realized that (of course) there are habit tracking apps that I could have in my phone/watch as well. I’ll definitely look into it.

Keeping habits, routines and trying to be rigorous might seem silly and overly ambitious to some. Yet, at the point I am in life with dayjob, kids and responsibilities I rarely find myself free to use my time any way I like. I need to put those quarters and moments inbetween activities to use.

If I don’t work for it, dreams will remain dreams.

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