I have a yoga practice of 2-3 hours every day. It’s part of my daily spiritual practice, and it’s non-negotiable. Of course, there are some exceptions, like when I’m traveling long distances, or when I am jetlagged going from North America to Asia.
But I have realized that it’s so easy to fall off the habit wagon, even when I have been building it up for a while.
Do you know what the habit wagon is? And how you can build it up as well? Read on to learn more.
What Is a Habit Wagon?
You might have read about Jerry Seinfeld, and how he writes a new joke every day. He likes to mark it off in a calendar and build that long ‘wagon’ of X marks. It’s basically an indication of his joke creation habit.
If he misses even a day, it’s quite visible in the row of X marks, that he has fallen off the habit wagon. And you don’t want to fall off the habit wagon, even once. Because it’s quite easy to drop off completely if you do.
Remember when you were a child, and you would play this game with yourself where you had to take one step after another with your feet connected and never break the streak? Well, it’s exactly the same here.
Never Break the Streak – Or Fall off the Habit Wagon
“Never break the streak.” Or at least, never break it, as much as possible. If possible, even if it means, doing a minified version of the habit, never ever break the habit.
It’s quite apparent to me in my life that if I fall off the habit wagon, it’s so hard to get back up again. Case in point – whenever I travel from North America to Asia or the other way around, the jet lag and time difference of 12-13 hours kills me.
I am incapacitated for a few days after travel since it takes around 24-36 hours depending on the flight to get across the Atlantic.
More than that, with all the layovers, all the sleeping in cramped plane seats, all the terrible meals, and all the disruptions to my daily habits and rituals, I’m a complete mess when I arrive at my destination. This usually ends up being a big fall off the habit wagon, because I usually miss a few days of yoga when I’m travelling.
And once I arrive at my destination, catching up with sleep, rest, and food becomes a priority, so I don’t get sick. This means, another couple of days where yoga isn’t a priority. I notice that after these few days of skipped yoga practice, getting back into the habit of doing yoga everyday is so hard!
A habit wagon matters because the impulse and momentum of doing a habit every day and building that unbreakable streak keeps you going. It pulls you along with a force stronger than that of you pulling yourself by willpower alone.
Willpower might get you somewhere, but it will not get you all the way. That’s where the habit wagon comes in.
How to Build a Habit Wagon?
I might say, building a habit wagon is easy, it’s as easy as not skipping a single day of practice or habit. But it’s easy to say this in words, but is it actually possible to put into practice?
Well, not really. In fact, that’s why most people don’t stick to their habits, or to goals or resolutions that they set up for themselves. They might start off strong with the habit wagon, but soon after they fall off the habit wagon, trailing far behind, wondering where they went wrong.
I have some tips for you to build a habit wagon and more importantly, to stick to it for a long time to come. Let’s see what they are below.
1. Don’t Miss More Than 2 Days in a Row
If you do end up missing a day or two, catch up as fast as you can. Double up on the days following the missed days, so you feel a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum.
Also, it makes you feel like you are the kind of person who doesn’t miss days. If you can build a persona like that, then that will definitely keep you going through the tough days, when you just want to be in bed and not do anything.
2. Have Some Wiggle Room
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I am forever trying to be less harsh upon myself. It’s easier for me to berate myself than to be kind to myself.
That’s why I always place some wiggle room or a Plan B, as they call it, into my habit wagon. Yes, I told you never to miss more than 2 days, earlier. Am I contradicting myself here?
No, indeed, my friend. Wiggle room or a Plan B means that on those days (which happen inevitably) where you know you will miss your habit or practice, make sure you have a smaller minified version of the habit that will ensure you haven’t really missed your habit.
For example, if you have a habit of meditating 30 minutes everyday, then meditate 1 minute on those days where you just can’t do 30 minutes. Maybe you know you are going to have a busy day tomorrow, and you won’t be able to do 30 minutes of meditation. So that you don’t fall off your habit wagon, do 1 minute of meditation. And still count it!
That way you will keep building the persona that you are a person who never misses a habit. OF COURSE, don’t do this too often. Maximum once a week. Otherwise, you might slide off your habit wagon into the pit of mediocrity and doing ‘just enough’ to coast.
3. Tell People about Your Goals or Habits
Accountability matters. We are all social creatures, some more than others, of course. But if you tell someone that you do 2 hours of yoga every day, on those days where you don’t feel like doing it, you will have that voice in your head saying, “Hey, you are going to skip yoga today? But you told so-and-so that you do yoga every day.”
No one wants to become a liar. Or at least no one wants to break the persona that they have of themselves. If we believe that we are the kind of person who doesn’t fall off the habit wagon, and if we have told everyone around us that we are that kind of person, we will not want to break that idea of ourselves.
That’s why share your goals or habits with the people around you. That way when they ask you about it occasionally, it sorts of keeps a check on you. It prevents you from falling off the habit wagon through social peer pressure. Remember that this is positive peer pressure which is highly useful and recommended as a tool in habit building.
Keep Going Strong – Don’t Fall off the Habit Wagon
The 3 tips above are some ways to avoiding the fall off the habit wagon. But they are the tip of the iceberg. There are many other ways you can prevent yourself from skipping habits and breaking your streak.
Remember, don’t break that streak. Or try not to break it as much as possible. That’s the only mission you have. No other.
Why do habits matter again? Well, habits make up who we are. If we are made up of a bunch of good habits, it will help us become successful and self-fulfilled individuals. On the other hand, if we are comprised of a bunch of bad habits or no good habits at all, we will end up a different person.
What kind of person do you want to become? Think about the habits that you want to create that will generate that kind of person. It’s not complete a cause-and-effect scenario, but close.
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