You know how looking at old photos brings a smile on your face? A happy smile, a sad smile or a smile wishing you could go back in time? That’s what reading old journal entries does for me. I started writing a journal 4 years back and it’s amazing to see the impact of writing down thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t one of those activities I had planned to do. One afternoon, when I felt everything falling apart, I opened a sheet and poured my heart out. I was too emotional to talk to someone without breaking into tears, so opted to write them down. I wrote about 3 pages and realized I felt better with every word. There was a palpable sense of relief!

After that instance, I tried writing a couple of times when I was feeling low. I was surprised at how well it worked every time. Finding the words to articulate the foggy mess in my mind gave me a sense of clarity which would not have been possible otherwise. Being able to read what I wrote, helped me understand my triggers and behaviour patterns a lot better. It also helped me unravel the obvious and not-so-obvious root causes of some of my problems. I got this brilliant opportunity to look at my life from a completely different perspective. I was convinced journaling was the right thing for me. I slowly wove it into my routine. These days I look forward to the 15 mins I set aside to write down what’s on my mind. It has been a blessing! 

Is journaling the best thing to happen to me? Hell, yeah! 

Am I trying to convince you to take up journaling? Absolutely Not! 

Journaling worked for me because I’d already been writing as a blogger. I like introspecting and observing those around me. It aligned with my personality. The benefits convinced me it was the right thing. For me. If you’re reading this and cannot relate to anything I’ve mentioned, then journaling is not for you. And that’s one step forward in knowing what’s not for you (So underrated!).

All of us want to succeed or get better at what we do. In our thirst for success, we often overlook certain fundamental aspects of our behaviours that may stand in the way of success. That’s why some of us struggle to make progress despite consistent efforts and eventually give up. We do not pay attention to our inconspicuous response that can sabotage all our efforts. We end up moving on to something else and make the same mistake again. How many times have you found yourself in situations where despite your best efforts you’ve not been able to stick with a routine? If that sounds familiar, you should try and understand what habit of yours is standing in your way. For that, you need to first introspect and find out what kind of a person you are. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What excites you? What bores you?
  • Do you lose interest quickly or can you sustain the momentum for as long as it takes? 
  • Do you need a lot or little motivation to do something?
  • Do you like spending time with yourself or enjoy group activities?
  • Do you prefer many short-term, one-off goals or long-term goals?
  • Do you like routines or need variety in life?
  • What is your history with starting new plans? What is the reason?

Once you have the answers, consider the new habit you want to build and see if you are compatible with the proposed habit. 

There are 2 possible outcomes here:

  1. Your new task aligns with your existing habits
  2. Your new task does not align with your exisiting habits

I’ve been writing for a better part of my life, so writing was not the problem. The challenge was making time for it. I just needed a reminder. So if you’re doing something that aligns with you:

  • Ensure you have a cue
  • Allot a specific time for it 
  • If possible, piggyback on an existing habit to increase your chances of doing it. 

If you come across one or more aspects of your personality that may not align with your goal, ensure you account for it when trying to incorporate the new habit.

  • Understand why you tend to do what you do, and what triggers you
  • Make changes around your existing habit 
  • Then plan for your new habit (small, consistent changes)

It is worth identifying habits which prevent you from attempting a task and tackling them. Finding out the triggers for those habits helps you uncover the real problem. This ensures you are solving the real problem at the root cause and not solving one of the consequences of the problem. If you’re trying to make a fundamental change in your personality, remember you are trying to undo years and years of conditioning. It is possible. But it will not be easy. Don’t underestimate what you’re against. Plan well, have multiple alternatives and a fail-proof backup. Hold yourself accountable. Track progress to validate assumptions and to understand if you’re on the right path. So before you even start planning for your new habits, plan for those existing habits that may oppose what you’re trying to do.

We pursue habits when we are convinced of the benefit of doing something every day. As much as the way you implement your plan matters, choosing the right habit to incorporate into your routines matters even more. You will be spending your time and effort on it, so make sure you don’t choose something blindly. Choose habits that you can see yourself doing for some time in the future. After all, you’re doing this for you. You might as well do it right!

Image Courtesy: by Pete Linforth from Pixabay