What is your ritual?

It is said that our daily habits define us, and the way we start our day, the things we pay attention to and the little habits we have built into our daily routine influence our lives more than we might imagine.

Repeat an action too many times and it becomes automatic, such as: washing your face and teeth in the morning, making coffee, jogging (for those who practice it) or many others. And the reason why we practice them and they have come to be present in our lives is because they give us (or gave us at the time) some satisfaction: we like to feel clean, we like the taste of coffee, we like the feeling of freedom and energy we have when we exercise.

But the same thing happens with negative habits: drinking, smoking, fast food, etc., they appeared in our lives because they gave us a certain satisfaction, we looked at them as a way to detach or reward ourselves after a busy day maybe. So maybe we repeated that behavior whenever we were stressed, and a new connection was formed in our minds that now links smoking, drinking, or eating junk food with work stress, and now maybe every time we come home from work we drink a beer (or more), a glass of wine (or more), we smoke a cigarette (or more).

In our minds we think we are rewarding ourselves, but in fact we are fueling a negative behavior that we keep planting, keep planting until it becomes automatic, a part of us, and we come to identify with it... We find ourselves coming home and we drink, even if it wasn't a stressful day, we drink because it has become a habit, an automaticity. Is this good? I don't think so!

Try living more intentionally

What would it be like to introduce new habits into our routine that have a specific purpose, manage to stick to them, and execute them as effortlessly as brushing our teeth? What would it be like to live much more intentionally, and spend our time on the things that really matter to us, instead of wasting it on unnecessary distractions or bad habits?

James Clear, in his book "Atomic Habits” explains the stages of forming a habit, illustrating it in the form of a block – The Usual Loop:

" First it appears clue. It triggers the initiation of a behavior. It is a small piece of information that anticipates a reward. […]

Desire it is the second stage and is the motivational force behind any habit. Without some level of motivation or desire, [...] we do not feel the impulse to act. […] Desires differ from individual to individual. […] For a gambler, the sound of mechanical games can be a powerful trigger stimulus that will cause intense desire. […]

The third stage is RESPONSE (which represents the habit/action itself). [...] The triggering of the reaction depends on the level of motivation or stress associated with the respective behavior. […]

And finally, the reaction leads you to reward. It is the ultimate goal of any habit. […] The first purpose of reward is the satisfaction of desire. […] Rewards teach us which actions are worth considering in the future. "

Based on this principle, the author explains methods by which we can introduce small cues to promote certain positive reactions or habits. Everything is about reorganizing the environment around us. Let's say we want to take vitamins every day, but we forget about them because we keep them locked in a drawer. A minor reorganization would be to move them to the desk or the kitchen table, and in this way you can see them every day and you will certainly not forget them.

In the same way, you can also try to eliminate a habit, by blocking clues. If, for example, your habit of drinking a beer was triggered by coming home from work, you can try to replace that with another habit. For example, when you get home you can change into sports clothes and go to the gym or to the park for a run. Another method would be to avoid buying any more beer, and in this way you eliminate the clue - the temptation - altogether.

"...disciplined people structure their lives more effectively, so they don't have to resort to heroic doses of willpower or self-control. In other words, avoid tempting situations. People with the best self-control are usually those who don't use it frequently. It's easier to abstain when you don't expose yourself to temptation as often. […] Perseverance, courage and will are essential to success, but the way you can strengthen these qualities is not to be disciplined yourself, but to better order your environment. "

The secret of self-control is: "bringing out the cues favorable to good habits and camouflaging those of bad habits."

I personally tested this approach in wanting to do a social media detox because I felt I was spending too much time on them. So I uninstalled my instagram and facebook apps from my phone, an action that helped me reduce this "wasted time" a lot.

But let's get back to introducing positive habits. In the current situation, personally, it seems to me that the most important habit we should stick to is to exercise constantly. Most of those who can work from home have been forced to work from home, this means that we no longer make the minimum effort to get to the office, and this means that we sit for 8 hours (or as long as the work schedule lasts) in the chair, in face of the computer.

An option would really be to organize our work space, to invest in a standing desk, but that is quite expensive. A simpler option would be to make a weekly (or even daily) exercise plan and a "habit tracker" to write down the days in which we kept to the plan.

“ […] Noting the last action triggers the next one. When you keep track of your actions, you naturally build up a series of visual cues. […] The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we see that we're making progress, we're motivated to keep going."

This "habit tracker" I was talking about above doesn't have to be something complicated and difficult to maintain. This can be a simple monthly calendar where you mark off the days.

Whatever your ultimate goal is, the thing to remember is to be patient with yourself and the process you've started. Rome wasn't built overnight, and the same applies to your evolution. With small but constant steps, you will get where you set out to be!

Meet the author!

The book contains many examples citing various studies based on human behavior and is a pretty good starting point if you are looking to improve your life. It talks about how to create better habits, live more intentionally, but also how to stay motivated.

Below is a podcast if you want to get to know the author better: