All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.
I feel sick. Not sick in the sense that I am in poor health, more of a feeling that I know things aren’t going the way I intended. I wake up feeling lost. The days I have my daughter, I wake up knowing what I need to do that morning, but beyond that, I am not entirely sure what to be doing with myself.
When I wrote Amor Fati for my birthday, I knew things were going to be a challenge making the transition from a full-time career to rebuilding from scratch. I didn’t realize how unprepared I actually was to take on this challenge. I feel like I should be better prepared for this as it is very similar to what happened when my ex left me over eight years ago. I read through Weathering the Storm and I recognized a lot of habits that I had then that I continue to have now. Not good habits either.
When the year ended, I made the decision that I need to do better. I started in the two ways I know best: reading and working out. The first book I went through was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I had previously read his other book, Deep Work, and knew it would be a good starting point to help sort myself out.
There are many layers to being a digital minimalist. There are people who take digital sabbaticals to get away from technology, people who limit their time with technology and social media, and then there is Cal Newport. Cal doesn’t have social media, heck, doesn’t even have a general purpose email address. I don’t get the impression he watches TV, but he does use technology still. Cal Newport is a computer science professor, after all. He advocates using technology in limited ways, for example, your phone should only be used for only certain purposes: talking, listening, maps, and photography. Possibly limited texting.
It is rather extreme, but while listening to him read his book on Audible, I can appreciate why someone would choose that lifestyle. It allows him more time to focus on other aspects of life, especially his family and writing. He doesn’t suggest people become like him, but instead be more aware and discover how to balance it with their life. One of his suggestions is to create more friction to make it more difficult for you to access your phone, social media apps, and constrain the time when you do use them (lunch breaks, after work, but never after supper.)
The next book I picked to read is on a very similar wave length. Atomic Habits goes into how dangerous these kinds of habits can be, how to be aware of them, and also how to break them and/or form new, healthier habits. While not directly targeting social media and technology, it is one area that is more relatable than others.
The key idea that James Clear repeats regularly is to break bad habits, you have to create friction; to create new habits, they have to be frictionless.
Frictionless stuck in my head while listening to this book. I’m not prepared to tackle the digital part of my life yet, but instead what I wanted to focus on right now was creating new habits. In order to do that, James suggests breaking the habit down into its atomic parts, the smallest actions you can take that will lead you to do something more. Working out at home is one habit I am trying to build into a better routine again. The way I have started approaching it is like this:
- move my kettlebells into an area of my room that is accessible and have the kettlebells visible. I can’t ignore their presence.
- have the gloves on top of my workout clothes and put them out the night before
- fill my water bottle the night before after laying the clothes and gloves out
- set the pre-workout container on the counter for the morning
In the morning, I see everything laid out. I see the pre-workout mix ready to go, then get the clothes on, and then everything ready to go. There isn’t anything preventing me from working out except my brain trying to stop me from doing it. When that happens, I just have to remind myself that everything is ready to go and I have no reason to avoid it. Just get it done.
It seems silly while writing it out, but it works. I’ve been working out consistently at least three times a week this month. My mentality going to bed used to be, “I should work out tomorrow,” but now it is more, “I can’t wait to work out tomorrow.” The changes are small, but nothing big will happen without the small changes.
That is only one habit, though. There are a lot of other habits that I want to build this year, and other habits that I would like to limit or eliminate. That’s going to involve building and eliminating friction to allow those changes to happen more easily. In order to make this a success, I am going to track the habits so I keep myself accountable and have a visual to look back at. That part will be described next.
Today starts a year, or perhaps a season, of being frictionless. Allowing the positive things to happen more easily, and making the bad things more difficult. No end goals with this except to feel better about who I am and what I am doing.
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.
— James Clear
Why a year or a season instead of resolutions? I will allow CGP Grey to explain: