What is the magical length of time for something to become a habit?
The truth is – no one really knows. You could get on the ol’ Google, do a quick search and find every length of time, partnered with some justification for why that magical number is the perfect length of time to commit to something before it becomes a habit.
So what’s the deal with these habits?
Here’s my 2 cents.
We all have common sense on what we know is good for us and what we know we should avoid. The problem is we don’t always WANT to do the good things and SKIP the bad things.
I don’t want to give up pizza, but I know I should. And I don’t want to drink 100 ounces of water daily, but I know I should. Feel me?
So because we don’t always have the motivation, we want to create a habit. We want to be able to automate our routines so we do the things we need to without even thinking about it.
It’s like living a healthy life without having to even try. So we start programs and stick to them hoping they’ll become habits.
Mindless autopilot right into a fit and healthy life, right?
But there’s a problem with this idea.
Sure we could turn our healthy goals into habits. But what are we giving up?
Instead of asking ‘how long do I have do this before it becomes routine,’ maybe there’s a better question.
How do I do this to make it more meaningful?
Okay I get it – that sounds like a really dumb question, but lemme explain.
And because I’m a fitness addict, let’s relate it to fitness.
Goes like this:
When you start a fitness program, your energy and motivation is pretty high. It’s new, it’s exciting, and you’re ready to get there, work hard and see results!
But then after a few weeks, the motivation fades. And you get into a slump, waiting for results that take longer than you expected. It’s here in this slump that you think – ‘if I can just get past this and turn my workouts into a habit, I’ll start enjoying them more and see progress for the long haul.”
But there’s a problem with this thinking.
Because you’re waiting for your workout to become a routine. A routines aren’t going to get you results.
A ROUTINE is something you do every day without having to think about it. It’s just one form of a habit.
- Getting up and brushing your teeth.
- Hitting the start on your coffeepot
- Your drive to work – when you can answer emails, listen to podcasts or zone out and still arrive to the right place.
Those are routines.
But there’s an alternative. A way to create a habit that actually has purpose behind it.
And those are called RITUALS.
Rituals are things you do regularly with purpose. There is an intent behind them that will give you something out of it. You train yourself to complete a task knowing it will give you something bigger. There is conscious thought behind it, rather than auto-pilot mode.
So what are these rituals I speak of? Here’s a few examples:
- Tony Robbin jumps into a freezing cold ice pool every single morning. Why? It actives every nerve in his body, it energizes his brain and it triggers a productive day.
- Writing down your goals every day. Starting your day at the office with a list of what you know you need to accomplish. Purposeful way to get yourself organized for the day.
- Gratitude Journaling. Taking 5 minutes each day to write what you are grateful for. It’s purposeful and it fills up your warm and fuzzy compassion and fulfillment.
These aren’t mind-numbing things. They have meaning. They are designed to set up your day for success in one way or another.
Do you want your fitness be mind-numbing? Just going through the motions?
I’m gonna say no – because it if is, then you’re destined to sit on a plateau forever.
But if you walk into the gym with purpose, then that’s a whole other story.
So instead of having a fitness routine, maybe we need fitness rituals.
A purposeful and meaning way to set up our workouts for success.
- Use your drive to the gym to focus. Listen to high energy music that pumps you up.
- Doing a warm-up that actually relates to the workout. It’s not just about increasing your body temp, but actually activating the nerves and pathways you intent to work.
- Having a systematic training plan that gets you from here to results. Not just floundering wondering if change will happen.
Routines are good for some things. But I’d argue that rituals are more beneficial in life. Having a meaning and a purpose instead of just checking boxes off the to-do list.
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