I think it was Aristotle, or one of those other super old, super dead white guys who said “we are what we repeatedly do”. I’m not that into taking the advice of old, dead, white guys if I can help it, but I think this one was onto something: the idea that our habits define us.
So becoming the kind of person you want to be is about cultivating good habits.
For me, 2016 is about getting serious about writing. The seed of this was really planted last year, and it’s growing. I’m really beginning to incorporate “writer” as a large part of my identity, and writing as part of my raison d’être.
So I asked myself: what does a writer do? How do you recognise a writer? What acts are part of a writer’s daily life? What habits do I need to cultivate in order to grow into my identity as a writer?
I came up with lots of varied answers to these questions, but the one that I decided to really grab onto and run with for January was the idea of Morning Pages. It seemed like a contained, repeatable act that would lend itself well to becoming a habit, and contribute meaningfully to my writing practise.
I’d been doing Morning Pages with moderate commitment for a while, but I decided that for the month of January I was going to do them every day without fail, and make them into a real habit.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I tend to need a bit of a carrot on a stick when I’m presented with a long term task. Something to get me to show up every day and do it. And knowing it’s good for me isn’t enough. I need something tangible. What I’ve learned is that tangible thing doesn’t have to be big. It can be as little as decorating a little box on a calendar.
I printed myself out a blank calendar for January, put it on a clip board, and ticked it off with a new embellishment every day. And the pleasure of picking out a sticker or a square for it each day was enough to have me looking forward to completing the task.
I’m like a toilet training toddler. The power of the gold star is real.
Coincidentally, the February challenge in the One Little Word workshop is to complete a repeated task related to our word every day for the whole month, and tick it off on a little calendar in our albums. I’ve decided that for that project I am going to challenge myself to write some of my novel every day. It’ll look a bit different, but the outcome will be the same.
The simplicity, accountability, and ability to visualise your progress that a chart like this presents makes it a really great tool for the development of a new habit. It’s simple, and it’s effective – the perfect combination.