Your habits build your destiny. Whether you are successful or not, you reach your goals or you don’t, results and failure can all be tracked down to your habits. Habits are usually the tip of the iceberg that hides your personality traits, your behavior, and your tendencies below the waterline. It is a subject far too complex to be discussed in depth here, but it is important that you’re aware of its power.
If you want to write a book, it doesn’t matter if you have low self-esteem and don’t believe you can do it, it doesn’t matter if you can’t focus, it doesn’t matter if you’re too busy. If you develop the habit of writing for 30 to 60 minutes every single day, you’ll eventually have a finished book in your hands. But you can’t do it if you don’t turn it into a habit. If you try to write for one hour on day one, then on day two you’re too busy, on day three you write for 20 minutes, on day four you forget about it, it doesn’t work.
The habits that we currently have were most likely developed a long time ago. Creating new habits can be difficult and painful. Your body and your mind don’t want to do something you’re not used to. The trick is that once you go over the learning curve and make it stick in your routine, you’re done. You’ve acquired a new habit and now it is part of your life. Tools like timers and checklists can be very helpful when you’re trying to promote change in your life. Many of the tools you’ll find here to help you manage your personal projects can be successfully used to condition yourself with new habits. Consistency alone though doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reach your desired results. Regular action works fine with fitness goals, for example. If you condition yourself to run every day, you don’t have to do much more. After a while, you’ll start noticing the results in your body and your health. With more complex goals, however, your positive habits can be crucially important, but they need to be supported by structure. You can’t just sit and write for 60 minutes every day. Eventually you’ll find yourself with a bunch of unrelated texts that don’t form a cohesive book. Maybe you’ll be able to publish it, be it as articles on a website or even a book, as long as you’re ok with your book being just a collection of articles.
Complex goals require planning, just like the construction of a house. You can’t just build a house for 60 minutes a day, with no project. You will not have an actual house at the end. Your habits need direction. What exactly are you going to do with your 60 minutes today? Unlike running, you can’t just do it. You must follow a structured plan so you know where you’re at and what part you need to do today to reach the results you want.
When I wrote my first book, I would just sit and write. I didn’t know anything about writing. It took me more than a year to finish a 200 page book. When I started to receive feedback, people would sometimes comment on the disconnection they felt from one chapter to the other and sometimes within the same chapter. I was heartbroken at first, but as I learned more about the craft of writing, I realized all the problems that first edition had. First and foremost, I wrote everything without a plan. I didn’t structure the book before I started. It was like a work of art, like painting on a blank canvas. Most times, I would just stare at the screen and wait to feel inspired. I would have random ideas of important things I had to put in the book. Looking back now, that book was a patchwork of words, a complete mess. Just in case you’re wondering, I did not have an editor at the time to catch these problems! I self-published that first book. Since then, I managed to rewrite it a few times. It’s in its 6th edition now (not available in English yet, though), and it has been properly edited by professionals. However, if I didn’t fix the structure, I doubt the editors would have been able to save it. Now, whenever I decide to write a new book, the first thing I do is to brainstorm everything that comes to my head that can be explored within that theme. Then, I select from those ideas the topics that will fit cohesively within just one book. The next step is to organize how I’m going to present the topic in a logic and structured manner. When I finally write the first word, all the chapters and subchapter are already planned out. All I have to do is fill in the blanks. My habit of writing daily can now be focused to produce an orderly and well structured book. I don’t have to wait until I’m inspired, I don’t have to search for ideas. It’s all there in front of me. This method can be applied to any goal.
It takes around 21 days to build a new habit. To endure for three weeks doing something your body is fighting against, you need willpower and focus. Having a structured plan at the beginning helps your brain comprehend why you’re doing it. We always feel more motivated when we clearly understand the purpose of our actions. Even for habits that can be developed without planning, like running, it helps if you schematize how exactly you’re going to go from a sedentary couch potato to being able to run a half-marathon. Just setting yourself to run every day may not be enough. Maybe you’ll need to redesign your whole diet. Maybe it will be necessary to associate running with other types of exercises to build muscle in order to better support your body while you run. It’s also important to have deadlines: by the end of this month I want to be running 5 miles every day. That’s different than: I’ll just run every day from now on.
It’s useful to diagnose your current habits. Do you have more positive or negative habits? If you think you have some habits that you’re calling “neutral”, do they help you or steal your time? Which habits have produced real benefits for you so far in your life? Which habits you wish you had? Which habits could produce the fastest results in your life? Which habits could produce the best results in your life? Observe that while these three last questions seem to produce the same answer, they can generate three different answers! In that case, it would be interesting to reflect on that a little bit. Not all good habits that one could potentially develop would benefit you personally. It would be literally impossible to develop all the habits that would be theoretically desirable to have. You must, of course, narrow down a list of habits that would mostly help you with your particular goals, and that would be a good fit to your personality. Just a few good habits, paired with a good strategic plan to guide action, can change your life.