Even with our best college try, a good habit can be completely ineffective or nullified if we have too many bad habits surrounding them.
Making your bed is a great habit to have.
It helps you set the tone for the day. It brings a breath of calm and control to even the most chaotic day.
But if you’re staying up until 2 AM watching New Girl, or an endless supply of hashtag clips from The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube, it doesn’t matter — you’re still going to wake up exhausted and feel awful. You’ll either sleep in and sleep too much (at less quality of sleep) or you’ll not get enough sleep and move like a zombie all day. Your bad sleep habits have canceled out any benefit you might have had by making your bed. No amount of crisp and prim sheets and fluffy pillows are going to make you less tired and sleep grumpy. Eventually, your bad sleep habits have also short-circuited your willpower to even want to make your bed.
This is an obvious example, but one that’s easy to overlook.
However, more often than not, we don’t know what / which bad habits we have that are nullifying the habits we are trying to start.
We want to lose weight and get fit, but we don’t know how. So, we try what everyone one on TV suggest — eat less, hit the gym.
Yet we have no idea what we are really doing, or how the body actually works.
Like a car driving in our blindspot, we have a hidden bad habit: Ignorance. And thinking that it’s okay to wing it.
Sometimes it is. Sometimes winging it is the best way to get yourself started. But winging it isn’t always the best way to keep yourself motivated, especially when the going gets tough, and the belly gets hangry.
Life is an unbelievably complex system of inputs and outputs.
Every good and bad habit we have (and others have around us) live together (instead of in isolation).
Three bad habits don’t make a good habit.
If you know you have a bad habit, the solution is not to cast out the habit from your life (like an expired carton of coconut milk), its to replace it with another good habit that’s is similar and in the same family as the habit, you want to remove. (Or alternatively, make the bad habit disgusting to you. Smoking is hard to get rid of until you realize how bad you and your stuff smells, how gross nonsmokers think you smell, how much money you spend a month on cigarettes and what you could be spending and enjoying if you didn’t)
The biggest problem is when bad habits are that they are unknown to us.
These are hard to find. The only solution I’ve found so far is to be aware when they happen (stumble on them) by noticing when good habits you are trying to create seem to never work out. Something is cause it (I smell a bad habit or two). We can also ask others in our lives to point out bad habits to us — it’s easier to spot stupid or bad habits others are doing around us (when it’s not us that’s doing them) — but take their opinion with a grain of sand. A bad habit to them might not be a bad habit to you. The only way to know that is to ask yourself: “Is this habit what I want?” “Will this habit get me where I want to go?”
To create good habits that help us build our dreams or get us where we want to be in life, we must first know what bad habits we have.
Just like a good habit is defined by your own values, beliefs, and desires, a bad habit is anything that you’re doing that’s holding you back.
What are my bad habits?
When do they happen?
What prompts them to happen?
What can I replace them with?
— Josh Waggoner