How a habit takes

Regular readers of this blog know that on January 1st I began a project of what I’m calling my daily “rituals.” I read a chapter in War and Peace. I write at least 100 words (free writing). And I do some strength/resistance training.

All these actions take very little time. I’m often done in 20 minutes. Because the rituals are so short, I feel very little resistance to doing them. And so I keep going.

With the reading, progress is obvious. I’m about 225 pages into War and Peace (yep, that’s where 40 chapters gets you). On the writing it’s less clear. I’d like to figure out some ideas for my larger writing projects (including ideas for another novel) but I mostly just describe the snow I see out my window. We shall see. I’m trying to be patient.

As for the strength-training, the definition of the ritual is just to do something. A single squat would count. I’m keeping the bar so low because I have absolutely failed to build strength/resistance training into my life in the past and I know it is supposed to be important. The trouble here is that progress is motivational…and a single squat isn’t going to deliver that.

But I decided that building the habit should come first. And sure enough, the more days I do something, the more I become interested in that something. I had been using a 10-lb kettle bell. Having used it every day for more than a month, I decided to add slightly heavier weights. My 15-lb kettle bell arrived yesterday and I used it this morning instead. The same exercises felt a little more intense. There is progress. As long as we just keep going.

10 thoughts on “How a habit takes

  1. There are a surprising number of 5-10 minute strength videos free on youtube! I like bodyfit by amy and caroline girvan.

  2. I’ve been doing something similar reg. health and fitness. I try to keep every day a better-than-nothing day. I too am struggling to add strength/resistance training to my daily life. It is easier to walk on the treadmill because the returns are immediate – I can see the distance I’ve traversed and the energy I’ve spent, the step count, etc. I think, just for fun, I’ll walk around the house with the 3 kg weights in my hands – this when I must go from room to room to do whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing. Or alternate the weights in each hand as I am seated at my desk. I might look silly but then, why not?

  3. Laura- on a different subject, would you be willing to share the investment site information that you provide to your children? I’m interested in getting an account for my son. Thanks!

    1. @Anna – we are using Fidelity – more since we already have accounts there than because of anything special they do for kids. I know there are some sites that allow for very small amounts to be invested, or fractional shares trading, which might be an option too for kids — we had to do a pretty substantial multiplier on our kids’ savings to meet the minimum.

  4. I also think it’s so hard to motivate myself to do my strength training. It really doesn’t take long and I could do it anywhere at home. But I have such a hard time to bring myself to do it?!

  5. Hi Laura — on the flip side of how a (good) habit takes, I’d be interested in your thoughts about how a (bad) habit breaks. Have you written about that before? Thank you!

  6. I decided to do the “War and Peace” idea starting about mid January but reading at least 2 chapters a day. On Wednesday I finished Volume 1 and powered through 6 chapters of the Battle of Austerlitz – couldn’t put it down! The only sad thing is that I have read “War and Peace” before – when I was about 16 (forty plus years ago, ugh!) and I can literally not remember a word or a moment of it! So on the one hand it is all new to me, but on the other how can I have forgotten it so completely?

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