How to Not Fall Apart After Missing a Day of Your Habit

“Character is simply habit long continued.”

Plutarch

Picture this:

You’re a king when it comes to building habits. You’ve set out to do something good for yourself and you’re doing well and feeling confident. Nothing can go wrong.

But after two weeks without a single drink, you bend to peer pressure on day 15 and have a bottle of wine with a few friends.

Or after journalling every night for the last year, you unintentionally fall asleep and miss a day.

Or you’ve been running every morning for the last 30 days, but on day 31 you sprained your ankle in the back yard and can’t run for a full week and a half.

It’s bound to happen. Eventually, a day will come when you miss a day of a habit you are cultivating. Whether you are working on a daily habit, or doing a 30 habit challenge, it’s almost inevitable that something will throw us off the bandwagon. But this is okay if we plan for it. The key is not panicking and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Here are 3 things we can do when we mess up our habit(s):

1. Don’t Give Up

When you’re cultivating a daily habit, missing a day sucks (especially if you break a great streak), but it’s not the end of the world. Backsliding isn’t an excuse to quit. A moment of weakness is just that—a single moment. Simple errors or mistakes aren’t worth giving up something that brings us joy and we find meaning in.

2. Remember Why you Started the Habit

The goal of any good habit is ultimately the benefits it brings us in the long term, not necessarily the immediate experiences. Sure, after a couple of weeks of eating healthy, we might feel more vibrant and energized, but it’s also making us stronger and healthy over our entire lifetime. Stopping now would only be causing us issues in the future.

For me, Writing is a good example. Writing every day is a way I can challenge myself to improve and come up with new ideas. Things I’ve written a year ago might not be worth reading anymore, but each idea builds on to the next.

3. Work Our Resilience Muscles

Don’t think of missing a day as a failure, but as a way to challenge ourselves and find a way around problems. Sprain your ankle? Visualize a run instead until you’re back on your feet. Visualize like your life depends on it. Or start exercising your upper body instead. Whatever barrier you’re facing, there’s likely some clever way around/through/under it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1042

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Practice What You Want To Be Good At

“If you really want to be world class – to be the best you can be – it comes down to preparation and practice.”

Robin S. Sharma

After 3+ years of writing a blog each day, I can officially say that my writing has improved. Am I the best writer in the world? Heeeeeeeell Nah. But I’m better than I was 3 years ago. I’ve also gotten better at knowing what’s good work versus bad. Reading helps, surround yourself with great prose and eventually you’ll absorb some of the magic.

What’s eye-opening is what consistent practice can give you. I have a long way to go before I can earn the title of “pretty great writer” but that’s part of the journey. Not to say that improvement is inevitable on its own. We have to work and challenge ourselves every day in order to discover mastery.

As long as we keep consistently practicing, then it’s inevitable that our skills will improve.

If something is important to you, be it a skill or something that brings you joy (like hiking or listening to music or staying connected with friends) then you need to make it into a practice. What your practice will look like is up to you. It doesn’t have to be daily. It just needs to be integrated into your life.

The same goes for things we want to change.

For example, there’s something I’ve noticed about myself that I’m not happy about—

I suck at talking about myself and articulating my ideas.

I know to get my ideas across with words on paper or a screen, but when it comes to words flopping out of my mouth, I’m a joke. Not always. But a noticeable amount. I’d like to blame it on being tired or stressed, but those are just excuses.

The reason for this is pretty obvious:

I’m not practicing speaking. I’m not practicing communicating.

We only get better at what we practice.

It’s a simple idea, but one that’s easily overlooked.

I don’t expect my golf swing to improve by working on my dance moves. Why should I expect otherwise with writing and talking?

Writing is to talking as learning the piano is to learning drums. They’re in the same category of skills, but they have their own unique sub-skills.

Writing has improved my thinking, but it hasn’t improved my articulation.

The only thing that can do that is practice.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1036

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Missing a Day

“Right discipline consists, not in external compulsion, but in the habits of mind which lead spontaneously to desirable rather than undesirable activities.”

Bertrand Russell

It’s a sad day when you break a daily habit streak. The other day, I was on day 240 of sketching every day, but I flubbed it. I could give you a million reasons why I forgot, but that doesn’t change the fact that I broke my streak. It happens to the best of us. 

Practicing a habit always has its ups and downs. Doing anything worthwhile is never easy. The two most difficult moments of keeping a habit are: 

1. The first couple of weeks of starting a new habit:

A new habit isn’t sticky when you are just beginning. There’s nothing really pulling you forward beyond the excitement and motivation of trying something new. That’s why I find daily streaks so powerful. 3 days in a row is cool, but no one would feel remorse for missing day 4. But what about day 30? Day 100? Day 300? When day 301 rolls around, you better believe you’ll do whatever you can to make it happen.

2. The day after you miss:

Missing a day can be crushing. There’s a million reasons, obstructions, and excuses that can prevent us from practicing. It’s easy to feel demoralized and unmotivated to start over. But here’s the thing—

A habit is a means to an end.

Practicing daily is fantastic, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. Drawing every day will improve your artistic abilities—which is a great reason why to do it—but there needs to be a goal beyond that. It goes down to the core of why you want to learn and become great at something in the first place. Practicing music everything day will improve your song muscles which can flourish into you becoming a musician and writing songs people love.

Missing a day sucks, but so be it. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t change our passions. It doesn’t change the goal. If it happens—it happens. The only thing we can do is look forward and think of it as a fresh start. We know what we have to do. There’s no time to sulk. Our daily streak may be back to Day #1, but that’s just a tool that keeps us accountable to our dreams. The daily count doesn’t matter—what matters is what we do with the skills we are cultivating.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1009

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Day 1000

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

I started writing daily out of ambitious desperation. You see, I wanted to write, to be a writer (among other things), but I wasn’t writing. I’d squeeze out a blog post every month or so, and jot down lots of ideas, but I was doing more non-writing than writing. I made the mistake of waiting for inspiration to come, instead of seeking inspiration out through motion.

Before:

I knew something needed to change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was yet.

Seth Godin was a big inspiration. Somewhere around this time, I was reading his book, Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? A compendium of blog posts from his daily blog organized into centralized ideas. It was a thick-baby, coming in at 605 pages. I had read a few other books from Seth and would read his blog every so often. I think what drew me to the book was the fun and silly book cover with rubber duckies and the title. (I’ve always been drawn to ducks and birds, but that’s a story for another day).

It was inspiring to see how a writing practice could add up to something bigger and deeper than its individual parts.

Around the same time, I was also inspired by a couple of people I knew who had challenged themselves to draw every day for a year and make a drumbeat every day for a year.

At this point, I had what you could call an epiphany (aka the obvious thing that keeps smacking you in the face trying to get your attention).

If I were to write every day for, say a hundred days, that would be like writing a one-hundred-page book. Or a full year would be three-hundred and sixty-five pages.

With a daily habit, I could quickly go from being a “wannabe writer” to a “writer”.

This isn’t exactly an original thought. Plenty of people do this in their own craft (whether they have a name for it or not). But it was original to me. Going daily planted the seed for something much greater than myself.

During:

Ideas come from Momentum

When it comes to wanting to do something (wanting to be something) it’s all about momentum. Taking a yoga class once is a fun exercise. Doing yoga every weekday is a practice. One is a pastime, the other is taking you somewhere. Where you are going depends on the habit you are cultivating. But whatever it is, you are going somewhere. That goes for good habits and bad habits. Building momentum comes from being consistent and intentional. Phoning it in is almost like standing still. You have to pour your heart and energy into something in order to make it become something alive and special. Some days, all you have to give is phoning it in. If that’s all you got today, then that’s all you got. But that just means you have to get up the next day and try harder.

One thing I noticed fairly quickly as I had no shortage of ideas, almost as if having a creative outlet gave my mind permission to open myself up to my life and let ideas flow in. I’ve noticed this before when I write songs.

Sometimes the music comes first and then inspires lyrics, other times coming up with lyrics naturally gives way to musical ideas. Regardless, the songs that come are a reflection of what I’m feeling, observing and-or experience at the moment.

Creativity needs an outlet, whatever that is for you. It’s not enough to want to be a dancer or want to be an Entrepreneur. You have to go out and live it. Your creative outlets are like lightning rods to ideas. But if you aren’t in motion ideas come much more slowly (if at all).

Another observation was that a writing idea could come from anywhere. A conversation. A new book. An old book. A walk in the park. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Random objects. Writing made me more observant of the world around me. I would have to pick and choose which writing idea I wanted to grab onto for the day.

Creativity is a mixture of conscious and subconscious influences. I can have a writing idea—call it a prompt or a question—in the morning, go about my workday without thinking about it, and have an answer to it by the evening when I sat down to write.

Of course, not every idea will be a masterpiece. But each day gave me the chance to work on my skills and hone my ideas. For every six decent to bad ideas, there was bound to be one good idea worth more than the rest combined.

Mistakes Lessons Learned

Mistake #1 Not Sharing Enough

One thing that took me an embarrassingly long time to do was to write one day in advance. Early on, I would could up with an idea, write, edit, upload, publish, and share all on the same day. This works but takes up a lot of mental space and the work doesn’t come out as nicely as I would like. Probably about a year in I took the initiative and wrote two posts in one day so that I schedule a post to go out in the morning instead of publishing it in the morning. If I were to go back and start over again, I would have done this from the beginning (people are more likely to read your work in the morning than in the evening). Writing the post that would go out the next day also gave each one a little room to breathe. I more time an idea has to stew, the more I could hone the message into a succinct idea.

Now I’m working on writing multiple posts in advance so that I can give each of them more time and attention. I’m still writing and editing every day, I’m just building on top of my craft and experimenting with ways to improve my skills, have better ideas, and provide more impactful and meaningful work.

Mistake #2 Not Leading with Story

Another thing I would do differently (and am working on improving now) is adding more storytelling to my blog posts. Storytelling is one of (if not the) most powerful ways to teach or get a message across to others. When we listen to a story, whether fantasy or reality, we put ourselves into the equation and are much more willing to listen and discover the knowledge and wisdom buried in the tale. A lot of my blogs are just straight up insights or observations. This type of writing has its place, but if you want to make people feel and care about what you have to say, you have to tell it in a way that they will want to listen.

Mistake #3 Dropping the Ball

The last thing I’ll mention is if I could go back and improve things, I would have kept up with my newsletter and podcast. I had a tiny newsletter even before I started daily blogging, but I just couldn’t stay consistent with it. And the same goes for my podcast. My life was in turmoil at the time, and those were the things that I had to give. But I’m kicking myself because they are powerful ways to connect with likeminded people and ways to share what you doing.

I’ve more recently reworked both my podcast and have started a few newsletters. My plan is to double, triple down on both of them.

Streaks are a powerful motivator

I’m not sure what the exact number is—it’s likely different for each of us—but perhaps around thirty days of doing something in a row, you build up a streak that you don’t want to break. Take walking for example. Walk today, and you might not think of anything if you didn’t walk tomorrow. It gets interesting when the day starts adding up. Walk six days in a row and you’ll likely want to walk on day seven. But what about thirty days? Ninety days in a row? A full year? You better believe that when day three-hundred and sixty-six rolls around you’ll do anything and everything to make sure you don’t miss it.

Here’s what one day of a habit looks like in star emojis:
⭐️

Here’s a full week:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A year:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

And here’s one thousand days:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Days add up. Whatever it is you want to do, whatever you want to be good at—make them work for you. It’s not easy, but if you stick to it it’s worthwhile.

After:

Daily blog has been a guiding force in my life for the last year plus years. Just as a daily habit can be your too if you take up the challenge. What better way to prove to yourself that you have ideas worth sharing and that you can help others by sharing your story.

You Have Ideas Worth Sharing.

Hitting a thousand days in a row doesn’t make me want to quit—in fact just the opposite. I want to do more, help more, connect more, tell better stories, and challenge myself to make The Renaissance Life something truly special.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1000 🎉

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Contingency Plans

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

Alan Lakein

What are the common things that can derails our routines and habits the most? And, more importantly, what can we do about them?

Injury is a big one. There’s nothing like the loss of progress than a painful injury that leaves us lying in bed, sitting on the sidelines, and mentally challenging us with helplessness and negativity.

The ironic thing about injuring yourself is it’s often the people who are trying the *hardest* who end up injuring themselves. That is my story. I injured my neck, not out of laziness, but out of working too hard at the gym and at work. It’s not that working hard is bad per se, it’s hard work plus not having the awareness of what our body, mind, and spirit needs. Just going out and running hard without the proper knowledge and gear is a great way to ruin your knees. Hitting the weights at the gym without knowing what you’re doing is a short path towards hurting yourself.

Big Life changes is another common thing that can derail us. For example, moving across the country (or even across town). Talk about messing up your daily routine. You have to rush out in the morning to get everything packed and loaded—aka no coffee and reading routine. And by the end of the day, you’re exhausted and can barely move your arms.

Stress is the silent killer. Problems at work, family, friends, relationship—with ourselves (things we are doing and-or not doing). Stress can hit us on all sides (and usually all at once). There’s nothing like a stressful day to make you want to roll up to Chick-fil-a or Shake Shack and grab a large milkshake. Or Buy-click to your heart’s content on Amazon. Or just be plain lazy after work and do nothing but watch stuff and lallygag around on the internet.

Mindset. We are often our own worst enemies. If it seems like we aren’t making progress, or if we mess up once and “accidentally” eat a gallon of ice cream, we beat ourselves up about it and spiral even further away from our goals.

Many things can derail us. Avoiding them is ideal, but that’s not always possible or in our control. What we need is a game plan for when they inevitably come up. We need to create a playbook we can go to in times of pain and stress. Think of it like our personal DEFCON system—different levels of readiness and strategy depending on what’s happening to us.

If I get injured I’ll do X Y Z. When I’m moving to a new apartment, I’ll hit the “Moving Plan” button.

Here’s an example for a Big Life Change:

What do you do when you lose your job?

  1. Close the book, so to speak. Write down a list of everything you learned and enjoyed, and write down a list of why it didn’t work out or what you want to be improved at your next venture.
  2. Write down three things you want to see or accomplish in your next venture.
  3. Reach out to all your friends. Ask them if they’ve heard any opportunities and if they have any helpful connections.
  4. Reach out to a design friend, or hire a designer to help you with your resume and portfolio
  5. If #2 and #3 don’t pan out, find a job recruiter to help you find a job.

Having a go-to list takes the pressure off of us at the moment. It allows us to put aside the pain and problems that we are dealing with and focus—one item at a time—on the things we can do about what’s happening.

Note to self: Make a contingency plan for everything.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #953

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Zero Motivation: Part 3

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but if the thought of reading something out of order makes your teeth hurt from clenching your jaw in rage, here’s Zero Motivation Part 1 & Part 2.

If you’ve been reading some of my blogs this past year, then you likely know I’m a massive fan of daily practices.

Cultivating a daily creative practice has an interesting side effect: you don’t need to rely on motivation to create. Once you get started and have built up a little bit of momentum, you are letting disciple drive you, not motivation.

There are a few psychological reasons why daily practices are effective:

1. Autopilot. Building the up the habit makes it a thousand times easier to sit down and write or paint or play guitar or whatever it is you want to do. Momentum carries you forward. Once you put in the practice enough times, you expect yourself to practice.

2. Micro-Immersion. You don’t have to put your life on hold to learn something or practice. A daily practice lets you fit it in and around your life, instead of completely resetting your life. It allows you to immerse yourself where you are, with what you have. Instead of waiting for the right time or place to create, you can carve out a little time each day to work on yourself—your skills or your art.

3. Streaks. Doing something daily is a quick way to build discipline into your art. The first day is the most difficult, but that’s why it’s important to start small. But after the first day, you’ve already begun to build up a running streak. Now you’re on the second day in a row. And soon enough once the next week rolls around, you’ve been practicing for seven consecutive days in a row. Your streak is starting to get a little more powerful. After seven days in a row, do you really want to miss day eight? No! Day eight is as good as done. Now imagine a month passes. Then two. Now you’re up to sixty days in a row. Are you going to miss day sixty-one? H to the LL no. Not even if you’re sick or had a terrible day. And that’s what’s most powerful about daily practices, the more days you do them, the less you will want to stop.

There’s a key insight here though — you want to make sure you keep track of how many days you’ve practiced consecutively. Use a calendar, mark it in a notebook, do what you need to do to keep track of your daily number.

Solution #3: Go Daily

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.”

Stephen Covey

Going daily isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth experimenting to see if its right for you. The essence is simple —

Start doing something you want to do every day. How many practices? It doesn’t matter. But seriously, how much practice? If you need a starting point, I’d recommend thirty minutes. If you have time to eat three meals a day, get on Instagram for hours a day and rewatch six episodes of Community, then you have time for a thirty-minute creative session.  

If you can, it’s easier to do in the morning, because our minds are most recently refreshed from sleeping. But it doesn’t matter when you do it. If you’ve got a job, kids, chores, and other responsibilities, then fit it in wherever you’ve can. Once you build up your daily streak, it doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning or if you have to do it 11:58 PM while everyone is sleeping. Don’t sleep deprive yourself, of course. Just know that you can make it work within your schedule. And, honestly, if you can’t make it work, then your priorities are misaligned. 

Remember — you are doing this for yourself. Structure aside, the reason you are trying to motivate yourself to create its because deep down this is something you want to do. You are trying to add a creative practice because it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or you feel driven to do, but for a million reason can’t find the motivation to do it.

Going daily cuts away any excuse. 

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #897

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Little Advantages

“Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating; but when they consider that though dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in a populous city and its frequent repetitions give it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”

from “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson

Over time, things naturally accumulate. Grass grows tall and thick. Humans multiply. Dust piles. 401K’s compound.

From a quick glance, practicing your creative skills every day doesn’t seem like much, On a day to day basis, it doesn’t look like you’re making much progress. Sometime it might even feel like you are regressing.

Even a hard day of deliberate work can often only come across as incremental improvement. However, what we are seeing is from the perspective of one day — one click of the camera shutter. Now let’s speed things up a bit. click click click. ten days in a row of practicing. click click click. Fifty days. click. a hundred days. Our tiny number of days of practice is suddenly adding up. We’re no longer looking at a single photo, but a time-lapse of a hundred photos.

With each daily repetition, we are gaining progress and building momentum.

  • Small ten-minute meditation each day has added to hours and hours of practice.
  • Thirty minutes of practicing guitar every day will turn inexperience into prowess.
  • A page of words has grown into a book.

Of course, we want to make sure our efforts are aimed towards something. Otherwise, our daily work isn’t collecting into anything meaningful.

By giving a little bit of our time each day towards practicing (what’s important to us), we can take advantage of how time compounds.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #894

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Habit Strategies

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

A daily habit is just one strategy. I prefer because it allows you to live your life and practice multiple things.

When you’re practicing you need to be 100% focused on what you are doing. It’s like micro-moments of immersion. Practicing daily uses time as an asset and compounds your skills over a long period of time.

If you’re learning French you won’t likely be able to speak fluently over the weekend, but what about 6 months of consistent intention practice? Or how about after a year worth of daily practice? C’est top!

Same with any skill, whether you want to be a great guitarist, speaker, chef or painter. The more you practice over time, the better you get.

But daily is just one approach.

Another strategy is total immersion. The classic example of this is moving to another country to immerse yourself in learning the language and culture.

…But most of us can’t pick up and move. Another way of utilizing total immersion is to learn one skill (either with a full-time job or not) and focus all your energy on that one thing.

By focusing your efforts, you’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to learning. Which means if you’re working hard you’ll become better at it much faster. Maybe you want to try other skills, but you hold off on those until you’ve mastered the focused skill. Then, you use the lessons you’ve learned and brought them to the next skill.

These are just two strategies — a daily practice or total immersion — out of many. What strategy you take (or mix together) is all about priority.

For example, if you need to quickly learn something to get a new job, then taking a total immersion, boot camp style approach makes sense.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #880

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You Need A Practice

It took me a long time to realize how very little of life is in our control. We go through life feeling like we are in control—until we aren’t. Something happens that shakes us. A broken arm or health issue that shows us we are not invincible. A random circumstance that knocks the wind out of us. A realization that changes how we think about the world. These are turning points that can either keep us scared or lift us to a new level of understanding.

At its fundamental level, control means having power or influence over something. With just one hand, I could count how many things I have controller over:

  1. My thoughts.
  2. My actions and reactions.
  3. What I prioritize, focus on and/or value.
  4. Where I spend my time (and other resources).

In a way, what’s in our control are all related to one another. Thoughts lead to actions, and actions show what we prioritize our time on. These give us a credible amount of agency over our lives, but at the same time we are are in the midst of things outside of our control—an island in the middle of an untamable sea. But chaos doesn’t mean we are powerless. By focusing and honing what we do control, we can handle any life circumstances that come our way.

One great way to channel what’s in our control is to start a practice. Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

Having a practice grounds you when everything else is up in the air.

What practice(s) you do is up to you. It could be something creative, like writing, dance, pottery, painting, drawing, making youtube videos, calligraphy, guitar, etc. It could be something nourishing, like yoga, mediation, cooking, running, swimming, etc.

What matters is making it intentional. And, ideally, it’s something you put into practice daily. But I’m not yo mama. I’m not going to tell you how you should live your life. We each have our own choice here. We could go about life rocking with the ship and whatever wave hits us. Or we could learn how to sail.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #876

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Related:

Having A Practice – Steven Pressfield

Daily Habits Aren’t Sexy (…Until They Are)

“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.”

William Shakespeare

There’s nothing sexy about taking the slow and steady approach.

The spectators watching the hare 🐰 and tortoise 🐢 run were definitely rooting for the sleek and energetic rabbit, not the slow lumpy turtle. But starting a race isn’t the same as finishing one. And what about the skills and traits we want to cultivate over our entire lives?

For example, An index fund is so boring compared to the ups and downs of the daily stock market. But an index fund is a fantastic way to build wealth overtime with very little effort. All you have to do is keep adding some in and let it grow.

There’s nothing glamorous about bookending your day with a daily writing habit. It’s difficult to find the time and energy to sit down and work on your dreams. When the time comes to write, I often want to do anything but.

But that’s what’s powerful about a daily practice. Every day you are proving to yourself that you’ve got what it takes. You are training yourself to practice no matter what’s going on in the world or what mood you are in.

After you build up a streak, you don’t want to stop.

Day 1: a habit is fun —but not sexy. It might even be a little hard or confusing.
Day 15: you are getting into the grove — but still nothing to glance at.
Day 50: Things are starting to take shape. Your practice is having a noticeable effect.

But when you have 365 consecutive days in a row? When you hit 1000 or 5000 consecutive days of practice? There’s no way you are going to miss today’s practice and break your streak.

All from just a simple 15, 30 to an hour of your time (whatever you have to give). Less than the time it would take you to cook and eat a meal, or watch one episode of a show.

Now we are cooking. Whenever someone finds our I’ve meditated over 2000 days in a row, they usually exclaim, “wow! No wonder you’re so calm and level-headed all the time”.

Now that’s not the reason I’m meditating, nor does it mean I’m a pro at meditation. But each day contributes to my wellbeing. And each day ripples into the next.

The crazy thing is it doesn’t take much effort or discipline as you think. You just need enough to practice today. Starting today gets you to tomorrow.

With each day’s practice, you are doing your daily allotment of work today. It’s just a little bit and it doesn’t look like much. But it’s deliberate. It’s progress towards something. And it adds up quicker that you might think.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #871

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