Habit: A settled or regular tendency or practice.
Routine: A sequence of actions regularly followed.
Routines and Habits are an important part of our lifestyle because our external habits have a similar effect to what our mindset has internally. As I always divide people into internal and external parts, we can consider our mindset to be internal and our routine or daily habits to be external. As what is inside creates what is outside, our mindset needs to be healed and built first, before fixing our habits. Some conscious effort however is needed to regulate this external environment, as it can in turn affect what is on the inside.
If our internal mental thoughts have such a profound effect on our brain structure, it is inevitable that our actions will impact our lives as well. Of course, our thoughts and attitude determine the lifestyle we have and our daily actions, but habits themselves can also change our internal programming.
Our internal state creates our external state, but the external state can influence what is on the inside and, if we allow it to change that internal state, this will consequently change the external. If external influences are done intentionally, such as deliberate good habits, then this is a positive thing. We must however be very careful of passive external influences, which are not all positive.
It was William James (who is considered the founder of modern psychology along with William Wundt) who, by researching the brain and nervous system, came to the conclusion that habits are sequences of activity in the brain. Once one of these sequences or patterns have been created, it becomes easier for the nervous current to go over it again. James pointed out a difference between animal habits and human habits: animal habits are automatic, simple and limited whilst humans, because of the unlimited desire they have, must consciously install new behaviours if they want to achieve certain results.
This obviously takes time and dedication. In fact, James went on to say that our actions create in our nervous system effects of movement that transform a desire into a habit; the brain has to “grow” to reshape itself to our desires. This sequence or brain pattern cannot be created if the action is not done repeatedly. “Just like you become an alcoholic by drinking one glass after another, in the same way you become of virtue in any moral field, or experts in a scientific field or in everyday things, by the repetition of single actions or of single hours of work” Even if at the moment they do not seem to be so important, our actions, added up, determine our integrity or our personal chaos.
When I read this piece that he had written I found it very interesting, because it fitted in with what I have always sustained about the internal-external connection. The fact that the founder of psychology actually proved it, means it is not just my intuition but actual facts, and this knowledge is extremely powerful to determining the course of our lives.
Let’s divide our routines and habits into life organisation and daily organisation.
The organisation of life contains what we give most importance to: in other words our priorities.
When we decide, or let someone else decide, what is important in our lives and what we give most of our energy to, this thing will inevitably eat away at our time. If we give our highest priorities to trivial topics, this is where our time, energy and mind will go. We must ask ourselves if the organisation that we have done so far in our life is of such a type that will help us reach our potential.
If you have a vision of arriving at your truest potential, then unfortunately things such as gossiping, idle shopping, excess social media have no space in our lives. I’m not saying we must leave to the side everything “normal”, it is just not necessary that these things have to be at the top of our priority list. To reach our potential we must have as priorities whatever is in sync with our journey and our true selves.
There is no point in wanting potential, excellent results and so on if you are not ready to make any changes to get there. An excellent result is obtained by an excellent effort. If you have to sacrifice giving attention to something “normal”, such as hours on social media, to give attention to something that has to do with your growth, then do so. To change priorities you have to be ready to give the necessary time to what is important and not only what is comfortable or easy.
It is easy to have trivial things as priorities because you can dedicate all of your energy to them without having to push yourself or put in effort of even think. Bringing to the level of highest priorities actions that will make your life better and help your growth need you to think and be actively present while you do these activities. You cannot work on yourself and on your life in the same way and state that you watch the TV. You must be awake, present with your spirit, mind and body.
After defining your priorities, you must make sure that the actions you take respect these, respect what is important and not what you are used to giving attention to. Choose your priorities well and give the top places to what really deserves them, not what arrived there by chance. If you really want to obtain a result or your potential, don’t be scared to put this at the top of your list and be ready to sacrifice easy and comfortable habits.
How can these things be applied to our daily lives?
The application of life organisation in daily activities means setting a series of habits to follow. It doesn’t mean just what we talk about or what we look at, but what we actually do during our days. Life organisation is important, because our daily habits are a reflection of this.
We can start then with the first thing we do; waking up. Questions about this part of the day are:
– What time do you get up at?
– What is the first thing you do or think about?
– Why? Do they come from an actual need and are of use to your growth or are they simply habits that you have accumulated over time?
After seeing which are our first actions of the day we can ask ourselves if we are able to change them, that is if changing one of these habits would be painful or if we are flexible enough to be able to do it. One can consider then exactly what changes could be done to higher the level of productivity. Selecting which actions would make you have a better day.
Then we move onto the actions that we do during the day; work, study, family, hobbies etc.
– How much time do you dedicate to these activities?
– Are you able to keep time for yourself? Do you work at what is useful only once every so often?
One can then consider the structure of the day;
– Is it structured in such a way that can bring you positive results?
– How do you divide your time?
– What things could you stop doing? What could you start doing?
– Do you decide how much time to dedicate to something in a day or is it decided by others?
– Are you happy during your days? Why/Why not?
– What are you moving towards? What direction are you in? What spiral or addictions are present?
Lets see now how the fact of “giving time to” can be applied even more in detail daily.
There must be a balance between useful actions, life priorities and daily priorities.
In other words: The actions that we take must equal the priorities we have in our life and the priorities we have in our day.
A = Lp = Dp
(Actions = Life Priorities = Daily Priorities)
If an action could be reading a certain book, this must fit in with the priorities we have in our life (what is important) and it must also fit in with our daily routine (giving it time).
In a correct order, this sequence is:
Our Life Priorities cause our Daily Priorities which cause our Actions.
So these three parts (Lp, Dp and A) cause each other and equal each other in a balanced and focused life.
We can add another layer to this:
The influence of our mindset on our life priorities, which causes our daily priorities, which causes our actions.
We could go further and examine what is above mindset, what causes that, but I will leave it for another post. In brief, for those that can understand, what is above is below and what is inside is outside. The body, mind and spirit influence each other and all 3 must be developed, with balance. I want to focus however on a practical level, how our individual lives can be impacted by this.
Going back to the moments of the day questions, we have now arrived at evening; what are your habits for this part of the day?
– What do you do before sleeping?
– How long do you sleep? Does this help you or slow you down?
We should ask ourselves if we are able to prepare a structure for our days and respect it. Not once a week, but every day. By doing so, it is us that are actively deciding what to give our time to; how our time is used is not decided by old habits or my needs of others.
We can divide our day in different segments based on what is really important for our growth development, potential, goals etc. This could be deciding to have a segment of the day dedicated to X, a segment to Y, a segment to obligations (work, study, family) and so on. This way we can be sure of always being able to do what is important and necessary to have the life we desire.
All of this put together will contribute towards more enthusiasm for and during the day, and it will increase gratitude for this gift of life itself, as well as for the awareness of all that can be done with it.