The Case Against Habits
6 reasons to skip them
Most of us give very little though to the intentional creation of habits and routines in our lives. We go through life working on our To Do list, reacting to emergencies, and trying to carve out time for a Dream, for our families, and for some downtime.
Consciously or unconsciously, we have some mental blocks around creating habits and routines, or perhaps we have beliefs about habits that keep us from investing in them.
Others are well aware that they're resisting the formation of habits, because they don't like the idea of living life on autopilot. Of becoming a "creature of habit."
There's a good case to be made for avoiding or resisting habits and routines. You may have one of these arguments yourself, so let's take a look at them.
### An impossible goal The perfect habits, routine, or setup of automation is an unrealistic goal, and could therefore lead to continual dissatisfaction with life and feelings of failure.
True. But contentment is a choice. And it's a choice offered to us every direction we look, not just with our systems. When we make perfection a goal, we will always come up short. So either be satisfied (and content) with that truth, or don't make perfection a goal. Perhaps it works better for you to say you're aiming for "improvement" rather than "perfection."
### A waste of time The time spent getting our habits and routines set up perfectly, setting up automation and systems to optimize our life, even implementing "hacks" to simplify things, is never recouped. In other words, you spend more time creating the system than the time you save by using the system.
This one could also be true. But only if you 1) don't use your system (whether it's a Habit Chain, a Morning Routine, Automation, or something else) or 2) are obsessed with the latest system and constantly reinventing before you have a chance to see the benefits. So don't do that!
### An excuse to procrastinate Setting up habits, routines, and automations is what people do when they don't want to actually do the work.
True. Are you one of those people? Then stop procrastinating! Getting at the heart of your procrastination is the solution, not dumping the whole idea of setting up systems in your life.
If you're tempted to use setting up routines as a procrastinating method, then only allow yourself to do it in your downtime, not your work time.
### It's good for things to be hard Growth happens when we struggle and exert effort, so the desire to simplify our lives and make things easier is not a good thing.
First part, true. Second part, doesn't necessarily follow. Life throws us enough hard stuff, and it always will. Struggle will always be there, and how much better would it be if we reserved our energy for the things that really matter, not for the simple stuff that could be systematized, automated, and put into routines?
### The focus is wrong The push to set up a perfect system and the need for it takes away from being present; it focuses us on our systems rather than on people who are more important.
True. But only for a short time! And once we get our routine, our Habit Chain, our automation, our simplification in place, how much more time we'll have to focus on the people who are more important.
### Too inflexible
When we get systems ingrained and then something goes wrong, we are unable to adapt, and so we go completely off the rails.
It's tempting to live our lives in this all-or-nothing state. It's either a day of perfectly following our habits and routines, or everything goes to pieces and we're eating chocolate pie for breakfast. But that's a completely unnecessary choice. We're smarter than that. We can adapt. When life throws the challenges, we can make it part of our routine to pause, breathe, and readjust, rather than simply react.
So yes, there's a good case to be made against seeking out the best Habit Chains, routines, systems, and hacks. An argument for letting life carry you wherever it will.
But there's a better case to be made for intentionality.
[If you'd like some help with getting started on habits, see the "dig deeper" section below.]
your best next step
go more in-depth with this topic
Create a simple plan for the habits and routines that will keep you healthy in all areas.See the 7-Step Map to Powerful Habits
move forward on your adventure
Discover the secret weapon of Focus and how it will change the way you work.See more about the Focus Guide