The Most Important Habit to Start Today

So many of us, adults in particular, feel we can’t change anything.

It doesn’t take many failed attempts at change before we begin to doubt our ability, lose trust in ourselves.

This is where the “start small” advice draws its power. By making promises that are easy, ridiculously easy to keep (“I’ll run for 2 minutes,” for example), you start to taste success again. And in this way, day after day, you slowly rebuild that belief that simply says, “I keep the promises I make to myself”.

But where do you start? What habit should you change or create first?

I’ve heard (and had) plenty of ideas, mostly strategic. Like start with the easiest change first or change something that will free up time, so that you can use that time for other, new habits.

But I’ve come to believe that it shouldn’t be even this complicated. There’s a more important first habit to change, because it’s one of the most important habits you can change, period.

Start with the change that’s the most fun. For you.

For years, my “anchor” habits have been what I’d call grown-up fun. Reading non-fiction every morning; running while I listen to podcasts or audiobooks. They’ve worked, for the most part, and have kept me motivated to make new changes.

They’re exciting for me, because I like self-improvement stuff. Satisfying, sure, and fairly low-resistance since they’re enjoyable. But fun?

A confluence of books and ideas have suddenly made it regretfully clear to me that when it comes to my list of priorities, I’ve let fun slide too far down. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one — that in fact very few adults still make jump-up-and-down, shiny, happy fun a must.

But there’s so much good to be put out into the world, if only we put our own oxygen masks on first.

Artists suddenly feel nurtured, inspired, for the first time in years. Athletes remember why they started their quests. Grown-ups recall, after far too long, what they’re working so hard for.

What’s the habit that, if you could somehow find 30 minutes a day to do it, would light you up like nothing else?

Yes, that one.

If you could make it happen — and trust me, a lot of resistance, both external and internal, will try to get in your the way — how would that change your attitude? Your energy levels? The way you interact with other people? Your ability to create other changes?

So what’s stopping you?

Start small (five minutes is plenty, at first), and make it happen.

And don’t forget — have fun with it.

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Comments

  1. Great stuff Matt, couldn’t agree more.

    So often, we set these goals that deep down we don’t really believe in. We compare ourselves to the celebrity with the ‘perfect body’ or the dude on facebook with the ‘perfect life’ – and we feel like we should be more like them. So we try changing our habits to mimic them, but when the going gets tough, we’re not inspired to keep going.

    Often because we’re setting unrealistic expectations and striving for this false idea of perfection, but also because the goals are not aligned to what we truly believe in.

    I think it’s really important to take a step back and think about why we’re setting these new habits in the first place. Go for goals that are aligned with what you value the most, ones that excite you. And have fun!

  2. Thank you so much for reminding me to KISS! I am about to go on a 15 day/14+ Hour streak and am freaking about how to fit in fitness time.

    5 minutes does it…and if I can steal more time…I will!

  3. Hey, Matt! Glad I came across your blog today!
    Great advice! Doing things we dread comes with resistance. Doing something that is fun is automatically easier and more enjoyable. I am going to focus on a couple fun things on my goal list and not worry about the others for now.

  4. The hardest thing is when I feel like I’m too busy to do anything that feels luxurious. I work from home so I make my own schedule, but surprisingly, that’s made it even harder for me to carve out time for my own exercise! My to do list never ends, so I always feel like I could keep on working. I would actually LOVE to have a daily morning meditation practice, short to start, just like you said. Maybe thanks to your post tomorrow will be the day I start!

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