How your good habits lead to better ones

How your good habits lead to better ones
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I want to talk about habits today, and how many habits–productive ones, let’s not get crazy in thinking your habit of swearing at your neighbor’s dog each morning is a good one–lead you to building on them with better ones.

I’m sure you’re either up to your eyeballs in trying to create good habits in every aspect of your life right now or you’ve had to squash your NY resolutions already and you’re pissed. But habits take time, apparently it takes almost 2 months for them to become automatic, almost three times longer than what many believed to be 21 days (myself included).

In my experience, the only way habits have stuck are when I have tried and failed multiple times before finally succeeding. And I think many will be able to relate to this route because in order for you to keep fighting to make a habit stick, you have to care about it. And that’s why those habits are eventually able to become second nature and pave the road for more good habits.

Here’s my journey:

While I initially thought that becoming a vegetarian a year ago is what led to creating better habits, I realize that the catalyst may have been something else: recycling. My best friend is a recycler, and he would go to a facility that was near my current apartment to separate his recyclables. I started accompanying him just as a way for us to spend a little extra time together since he was in the neighborhood, and eventually, he gave me a recycling bin and I started doing it too. Almost two years later and we’re still recycling together at the same facility. I have gotten into the habit of checking labels to see if things are recyclable, something that I’m sure at first I found super tedious.

Around the same time I started to think about human consumption and started watching documentaries, which led me down a lane of food documentaries, primarily about the meat industry and some time later, I got into the habit of not eating meat and became a vegetarian.

This habit then led to others. My bff started to compost and now so do I (well, as much as putting compostable things into a baggie and handing it off to someone can be considered composting). Recycling and composting made me think more about how much and what I consume. So to reduce waste, and because we get charged for bags in Chicago, I carry a reusable canvas bag or three. When I buy produce at the grocery store, I mostly opt for putting them straight in my basket instead of in a plastic bag first.

Thinking about what I eat led me to start thinking about what I consume when considering material goods. So I watched a documentary on minimalism and although I am by no means a grade A practitioner of it, I try to be more mindful about the purchases I do make, question why I want something and if it’s linked to an emotion and void I’m trying to fill.

And of course, doing all this and not thinking about going vegan would be a bit strange. I’m not sure I can completely do it but I’ve developed small habits that still make me feel good and reduce how much dairy and eggs I consume. I don’t buy eggs or cheese but I let myself have them if I’m out and it’s in a dish I want. I did mess up the last two weeks, but I know it’s a habit in progress.

So here is the main takeaway: even if you fail in building a habit, keep trying. Habits tend to stick when they matter to you. And what better habit to build upon than one you already care about? It’ll lead to many more habits that you’ll be proud of.

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  • Thank you for a strong argument, in the logical sense of the word. To me, the signal that a habit will be a good one comes when it bothers me to break it.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    That's a great indication!

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