A New Year
It’s a new year, and I’m looking to create new habits. I’m a natural upholder of rules, so it’s hard for me to be okay with an exception like starting a New Year’s resolution on January 2nd, let alone January 5th. But something is better than nothing. Doing it every single day is not as important as doing it most days.
The previous sentence is an example of the advice I’ve been receiving from Atomic Habits by James Clear, a book that has been adding mind-blowing insights to how I approach self-improvement and reinforcing the best of other favorite sources of inspiration like Gretchen Rubin, Blake Boles, Austin Kleon, and Julia Cameron. I’ve made the holiday season my excuse, but nonetheless, I’ve been breaking the chains of several good habits, including reading my devotional, working out, and writing and reading every day. Failure can be hard to share, which is why I was so inspired by Austin Kleon’s sharing his “failed” attempt to write a book. And this is from a guy who’s written three! It makes my failed NaNoWriMo project seem less pathetic to me somehow.
With Atomic Habits, I am learning how I went wrong, though. One of the main ways I set myself up for failure was by focusing on my goal rather than my system. When I began my 100-day project this past fall, I wrote a page every night in bed before I went to sleep, and I was amazed by my success. I went from “not being a writer” to someone who wrote a one-page essay every day. But when I started NaNoWriMo and told myself that I needed to write 1667 words a day, no time or place or rhythm specified, I managed to complete it in four different ways on four different days before lapsing into a daily output of zero. I thought I wasn’t accomplishing it because the word count was too daunting, so I cut it in half, but still I didn’t complete the daily goal. After a couple weeks, I was way far behind and discouraged. I felt like a loser, not understanding that my approach was wrong and not me.
I’m already feeling better about what I’m in the process of building. I’m restoring my sense of order with some of the habit-forming techniques that I had intuitively been using last year, like keeping my morning pages notebook out and next to my bed, or working out before I let myself eat lunch, which I now know to be examples of “making the cue obvious” and “temptation bundling.” I’m also using new-to-me strategies like habit-stacking and assigning specific activities to specific spaces. This is my first time typing my blog post at my dining room table, but I want to associate this action with this seat I’m sitting in.
I imagine I’ll have more to say about upcoming efforts to streamline my life, but for now I’ll just take it one day at a time.