When trying to form a new habit, if you don’t do it every day, then it won’t become a habit.
Something you do once a week, or once a month, never becomes a habit. It remains a job. A responsibility. A chore. But not a habit.
The important behaviors are ones that we perform every day.
We wake up groggy and grumpy at 7am. We eat a rushed breakfast. We kiss our spouse goodbye. We head to work and do a business (thanks Bojack). We text our friends, we send emails, we attend meetings. We exercise, we drive home. We eat dinner with our family. We read a book or watch TV. We brush & floss. Eventually we go to bed.
And we do it all over again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after.
Sure, we take breaks. Sundays for church. Saturdays for naps and hikes. We visit Europe in April. We catch the flu and take two days off.
But these are breaks – small islands – in the vast and surging river of daily routine.
The cornerstones of life are everyday cornerstones. In the same way that a deeply religious person practices her religion every day, sometimes multiple times a day, the deeply successful and fulfilled person should forge habits that he does every day.
If you want to exercise, exercise every day.
If you want to read novels, read every day.
If you want to play the guitar, practice every day.
If you want to stay in touch with distant friends, message them every day.
That’s not to say that weekly or monthly or yearly actions are unimportant. We should attend bikram yoga class on Thursday nights if we’re not tired. We can grab drinks with old friends once a month when we find the time. We manage an annual spring cleaning if we have the willpower.
These actions are all important and valuable and good, IF we can keep them.
But that’s a big IF.
That IF is why there exists a gap between who we want to be and who we are. The Greeks called it akrasia.
But once you do something every day, the IF becomes easier to defeat. The focus shifts from IF to WHEN.
Let’s take a simple habit like eating more fruit.
If the goal is to eat tidy your room once a week, then every day, you’ll wonder IF you should clean that day.
But if the goal is to tidy your room every day, then instead of wondering IF you’ll clean your room, you’re now figuring out WHEN.
With enough repetition and time and patience, the IF will disappear. The WHEN will become consistent and fixed, and the habit becomes expected, even automatic.
Habit driven people don’t rely on IF. They understand they have no more willpower than the next person. They know they’re just as weak, just as busy, just as lazy.
They know that if they don’t do something once a day, they probably won’t do it once a week either.
Daily habits don’t need to be long and overwrought and serious. You can tidy your room for 5 minutes, the length of your favorite song. You can exercise by doing 10 jumping jacks in the morning. You can relax and connect by taking a walk around the block with your wife after dinner. You can pray or meditate before you slip into bed.
Daily habits are faster to form. They build deep, strong, solid roots into our lives. When thinking about what habits to forge, ask yourself first: Can you do it every day?
Because true habits are daily habits. Or they’re not habits at all.
PS. I’m writing on the habit driven life. Thanks for reading!
Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.