It would be nice to think that once we’ve established a habit, we’ve established it forever. Start walking before dinner in September 2008 and you’ll be doing it well past 2098 no problem.
Turns out that’s not the case.
Habits are a bit more delicate for longer than we think. It’s the difference, in some respects, between drying and curing. Something can be dry to the touch but that doesn’t mean it’s rock hard underneath.
Habits are similar.
I have lost my dry-to-the-touch (and apparently not cured) morning sketching habit.
It’s disappointing to wake up one morning and realize the habit isn’t where you thought you’d left it. Where you thought it would still be when you came to reclaim it.
So now that I’m past that initial disappointment, I have two things to do:
- Re-establish the habit
- Not beat myself up about losing it in the first place
Neither of these are one-and-done steps.
Re-Establishing the Habit
So how does one re-establish a habit? Just start doing it again, right?
Maybe. But maybe not. It sort of depends how it went off the rails in the first place.
Too often we hold habits in a vacuum. I could easily ONLY look at the sketching habit and get angry that I lost it.
But my daily sketch habit holds residence in the morning before my work day begins. That means if I wasn't sketching, I was probably sleeping...which means I probably needed the sleep.
Therefore to re-establish the sketching habit I have to look at my sleeping habits and strengthen those. Once my sleeping habits are sturdier, my sketching habit will be easier to reinstate.
When your habits struggle, look at what's touching the habit. Look at what's affecting it. The work you may need to do may not be about the habit at all but instead the things on either side of it.
Not Beat Myself Up About Losing The Habit
My default used to be, Perfection Or Else.
Turns out that the or else doesn’t really help anything. Quite the opposite.
Berating myself doesn't help me work harder. It just reprimands me for trying to do anything in the first place...as perfection is impossible to uphold forever.
Berating myself also solidifies a type of magical thinking that won't help me in the long run.
Our lives are a series of interconnections. If I only looked at the morning sketching habit and told myself, “You just have to WAKE UP EARLIER” without doing any of the work to go to bed earlier or de stressing my life, I am setting myself up to fail again and again.
Beating yourself up takes energy. Energy that could be better used problem solving the pieces that need it. Energy you could use going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, and re-establishing your sketching habit.
Because it ALL takes energy. And don’t let your overly simplistic self-hatred brain talk you into any other truth.