“We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.” ~ James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
Recently, while listening to a Tony Robbins talk I heard him say, and I’m paraphrasing here – You are the creator of your life, not merely the manager of your circumstances.
Those words captivated me in that moment. We are so easily consumed by responding to situations that we act as though reacting to problems and replying to emails is our life. The reality is that we have the option to direct our course instead of being steered by our circumstances.
So often, we direct our course in the tiny decisions we make throughout the day. Or more accurately, we create our lives with our non-decisions — our habits and routines.
We choose our habits and our habits create our life. So make sure you are choosing habits that create the life you want.
Life is Routines
Most of us fall into routines that become indispensable facets of our lives. Maybe it’s the habit of eating a salad every day at work, or checking your email one last time before bed. The things we do, say, and think every day are our rituals. We create our rituals. They are essentially our lives.
This realization is powerful because it lays ownership for our lives squarely in our own hands.
Viewing life this way will embolden and energize some and leave others feeling defensive and deflated. Your perspective depends largely upon your level of satisfaction with your life and how your daily practices expand the things that bring you joy or neglect them.
Are Your Daily Habits Helping or Hurting?
I’ve always joked that I have an addictive personality type. By that I mean that I find solace, safety, and comfort in my routines. When I find something that produces my desired outcome at the level of effort I’m comfortable with, I stick with it.
I also do my best to remain conscientious about my habits and what they are producing in my life. I check in with myself pretty frequently to assess how my life is going and what I may need to start or stop doing in order to be happier.
I get why the comfort of routines is appealing. However, an important question to ask yourself is “Are my daily routines producing the experiences I want?” And if not, follow up with “What habits do I want to develop to create the reality I want?”
Ultimately, are your current habits going to bring about the change you seek for yourself? If you’re an artist, do your rituals include making art? If you aspire to become an entrepreneur, do your habits create space in your life for developing your business plan? If your goal is to be fit and healthy, does your day include a movement practice and eating natural whole foods?
Three Exciting Benefits of Assessing Your Habits
Paying attention to your habits will help you be more self aware and live a more intentional life. You’ll want to choose habits that will begin to build the life you want.
Regularly examining your routines provides a lot of self awareness. It forces you to take a hard look at what we do and why we do it. This gives you an opportunity to realign your daily practices with our aspirations. Examining your habits keeps you connected to who you are, who you want to become, and whether you are on the right path.
We need this introspective time to keep ourselves honest about our choices. Paying close attention to the things you do every day reveals some hard truths about the progress you are making in your life.
Create an Intentional Life
Another benefit of assessing your habits is that it helps you create an intentional life. When you are intentional about creating your life, you start to feel like a leader. You become more proactive and intentional, and less reactive and haphazard. Your mentality shifts from helpless to powerful. You begin to understand that change lies within us as opposed to externally.
Life is More Enjoyable
Lastly, your life experience is more enjoyable because you’ve thought about what you want, made choices, and took action to get there. You start to become more confident and less fearful.
The Danger of Living on Auto Pilot
By contrast, many of us accept what I call an “auto-pilot” way of life.
This is going through life’s motions because you’ve always done it that way, rarely, pausing to question your intentions or set authentic goals. We exist like this because it’s all around us and we haven’t challenged ourselves to question it. We adopt the routines of our family and friends because it’s familiar and easy without stopping to examine where this path is leading and if we want to go there.
Auto-Pilot living is so insidious because it seems harmless. After all, it’s just living the way everyone else around you is living, right? What could be so wrong with that?
This way of thinking allows you to take yourself off the hook for how you are experiencing life. It makes everyone else’s standard your standard and normalizes disillusionment with life and even worse, pervasive helplessness.
How to Start Designing Your Life Now
Start by taking inventory of your current situation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- “What do I want to create, contribute, and experience in life?”
- “Do my daily habits reflect what I ultimately want to create, contribute, and experience in life?”
I suggest sitting in a quiet place with no distractions and allowing yourself to be completely honest and transparent when answering this question. Lean into what’s possible, and try to avoid the trap of limited thinking.
Once you have an idea of what your ideal life would be, start to examine your current habits. Are your current choices and daily activities aligned with that ideal life?
For example, if your ideal life includes purchasing a home in the Caribbean so that you can live in warm weather year round, you will want to assess whether you’ll need to adjust your spending habits to adequately save for this move. Likewise, if your ideal life includes publishing a novel, you’ll want to examine how much writing you’re currently doing and how you could rearrange your life to create space for that.
Prototype Your Life
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321
suggest developing prototypes, which are essentially models of your new life. This will help you determine which aspects of your desired life will and won’t work for you. To create prototypes try having conversations with people who have done what you want to do. So before purchasing that house in the Caribbean, speak to people who have done it about their experience. Or perhaps, interview a few authors about their process for writing their first novel.
Another way to prototype is through experience. Before moving to the Caribbean, choose the island that most appeals to you and move there for a month to see how you like it. Or an aspiring novelist may enroll in a 6 week writing workshop to get a feel for what the writer’s lifestyle is like and the investment required.
One of the most important steps is to prepare to embrace failure. The purpose of the trial and error process is to collect data that gets you closer to the life you want. If a prototype fails, celebrate that you’re one step closer to knowing what will work for you!
What’s at Stake
I know it may seem overly definitive to say that our rituals define us, but they do reveal our reality.
When I decided to start writing, I struggled to modify my daily rituals to include a writing habit. I had a big goal with an ambitious timeline. If I wanted to see it actualized, I had to change my habits and act in accordance with my vision. How could I be a writer if I don’t write? I had to re-connect with the identity I created for myself and commit to life changes that aligned with that identity and the outcomes I envisioned.
What I now know for sure is that what we choose to do, even the little things, determines the type of person we become until we make another choice. This life we are living is ours to create.
Only you know whether your daily routines are moving you closer to where you want to be or simply a collection of habits intended to keep you comfortable and get you through to the next day. When you look at the vision you hold for your life, are your rituals the catalyst or a barrier?