The Habit of Making Good Habits

1. Get in the habit of making good habits

I stare at “number one” in my list of personal goals. The first, last, and only goal I’ve been able to come up with so far.

Right. At least it’s a strong start.

I tap my pen against my notebook. I stare out the window. I twirl the pen through my fingers.

I finally focus again after about twenty minutes. And only because I accidentally sent the pen flying across the room and had to go get it.

As I trudge back to the task I’ve set for myself, I wonder. How does one go about making a habit on purpose?

I’ve heard people say “oh, it takes six weeks to make a habit”.

But I find the habits I make on purpose are the easiest for me to break: going to the gym, going on a diet, writing in my journal, taking up running, keeping a food journal, counting calories. These are all things I have made a habit (that is, I did them consciously over an extended period of time); and they are also all habits I have, at one point or another, deliberately decided to break - and in some cases, subsequently reinstate

I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that they’re all related to personal health; or the fact that, in some cases, I was going directly against my own nature (let’s face it, I’m a walker not a runner).

When I think about my habits, the ones that seem to have “stuck” were generally not started on purpose. I keep my fingernails squared off rather than rounded - don’t ask me why, I don’t remember why I started doing it but I like them that way. I read, if not everyday, at least very frequently. If something is really bothering me, chances are I’ll end up writing about it - it’s my way of working through it. I eat mainly (but not completely) vegetarian - it was cheaper in college and I kind of kept with it.

I think of these habits as having sprung from personal preference or necessity and circumstance.

My problem is forming habits when I want to. I can spell out which habits I would like to cultivate (listening to my body so I don’t eat more than I need; moving more during the day rather than sitting and reading for hours). But if I start thinking too much about them I...psych myself out. I set myself up for failure. The only time I have succeeded in a habit I specifically cultivated was when I was somehow able to articulate the habit and then forget about it for about three months (while following it subconsciously).

It’s a convoluted process; and once I figured out my trick, I pretty much ruined it for myself for future use.


1. Get in the habit of making good habits

  1. Learn how to not over-think making a new habit so you actually succeed.

Tap. Tap tap tap. Twirly twirl. Tap. Tap.

  1. Make a list of habits. The hide the list for three months. Revisit at that time and determine successes and failures.

Tap tap tap.

Right … here goes. I open a new document:

“My Habit Time Capsule”

(to be opened in three months)

  1. Eat slowly to enjoy food and give my body to tell me “I’m done”.
  2. Get out of the house at least once a day for a walk.
  3. Limit alcohol intake (to what? As yet to be determined)
  4. Focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet that limits processed foods.
  5. Ask more questions regarding Celiac when dining out.
  6. Write everyday (750words).

As I look over my list, I wonder whether I can trick myself into forming good habits.

I’ll find out in three months.