Building good habits

It started with getting up at 6:30. I didn’t need to. I could have got up at 7am and still got to work on time, but getting up half an hour earlier meant I was never late, could stroll rather than rush, and had a bit of thinking space to myself each day. I recognised and enjoyed the benefits of getting up a bit early but really, the reason I carried on getting up early was that it became habit. It wasn’t like I was sacrificing something (30 mins more of sleep) in order to gain something. It was more like I was gaining the benefits from just doing what I was doing. I didn’t start by deciding what I wanted to achieve and then decide what to do in order to achieve it, I just made one small change and discovered the benefits along the way.  

After a while, when getting up at 6:30 was completely normal, I started getting up at 6 am. I don’t know why. I didn’t have any plans for what I was going to do with this extra 30 minutes. I didn’t expect it to achieve anything. But it turned out that having even more time and space in the morning helped to set me up for the rest of the day. I felt like I had time to really consider what I wanted to achieve today rather than just thinking about what I had to do. It felt like being able to take a step back from my busy life and think more deeply about the bigger picture of my life. 

Then, for no real reason I switched from having a hot shower in the morning to having cold showers. I used to have cold showers when I was at university and I don’t really know why I stopped, but when I started again I quickly remembered why I used to love them. A cold shower does more than just wake me up, it sets me up. It gets my blood pumping in such a way that feels like a little adrenaline rush. It just feels really good to me. There are lots of supposed health benefits to cold showers, according to the various articles you can read on numerous websites, but again I didn’t start with knowing what the benefit should be and then doing whatever I had to do to get that benefit. I just started doing something and it turned out to have enough benefits to make me want to carry on doing it. 

It wasn’t long before I decided I was going to get up at 5:30 each morning and go for a run. I was pretty sure there would be some benefits to this but I also knew they’d be pretty far off in the future and that it would probably require a bit of extra motivation to push through the pain of running. I’ve tried to get into running regularly before and stopped after a few days, but that was because I had decided I wanted to get fit. This time I wasn’t doing it for any reason other than I had just decided to do it, and I had the other good habits to build upon. 

Good habits are like building blocks. You can make anything with them. Whatever you make, be it cool or boring, amazing or mundane, can grow and change as you build it. You don’t need a master plan or fitness schedule, you just need to start with the first good habit. And then you might add another. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter because its not like you were trying to achieve anything so you can’t fail by not starting another good habit, you can be happy with one. But if you do add another good habit, and then another, pretty soon without really thinking about it you’ve changed your life. And the thing about these building blocks is you can take away one, and maybe replace it with another without upsetting the whole structure. Now, I get up at 5:30 each morning, go for a run, have a cold shower, and walk or longboard to the office. I arrive early, don’t feel stressed or rushed, and get lots of things done before anyone else arrives with their stories of getting stuck in traffic. I think I might add some more good habits soon. Maybe with what I eat and drink.