zenhabits : breathe

The Habit of Starting

Post written by Leo Babauta.

The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it.

That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it.

When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.

Let me emphasize that: the key to forming a habit is starting each day.

What do I mean by starting? If you want to form the habit of meditation, just get your butt on the cushion each day. If you want to form the habit of running, just lace up your shoes and get out the door. If you want to form the habit of writing, just sit down, close everything else on your computer, and start typing.

Form the habit of starting, and you’ll get good at forming habits.

How to Start When You Face Resistance

Form the habit of starting — easier said than done, right? What happens when you wake up and don’t feel like doing yoga or your beach body exercise DVD?

Let’s first take a look at why you don’t feel like starting. It’s usually for one or both of these reasons:

  1. You are comfortable with what you’re doing (reading online, probably), and the habit is less comfortable (it’s too hard). We cling to the comfortable.
  2. It’s too difficult to get started — to do the habit, you have to get a bunch of equipment out of your garage, or drive 20 minutes to the gym, or go get a bunch of ingredients, etc.

Those are the main two reasons, and really they’re the same thing.

So the solution is to make it easier and more comfortable to do the habit, and easier to get started. Some ways to do that:

Make it as easy as possible to start, and hard to not start. Tell yourself that all you have to do is lace up your shoes and get out the door, and you’ll have a hard time saying no. Once you’ve started, you’ll feel good and probably want to continue (though that’s not a necessity).

The start is a sunrise: a moment of brilliance that signals something joyful has arrived. Learn to love that moment of brilliance, and your habit troubles fade like the night.

The Habit Course Self-Study Program

If you’d like more on forming habits, I’m now offering a self-study version of The Habit Course, along with co-creators Katie Tallo and Barrie Davenport.

The course is based on my tested method for creating habits, and features a ton of great content, some amazing guest experts, and a crazy amount of bonus materials. It’s definitely worth a look.



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