My Habit Tracker Has Made Me an Accidentally Positive Person

Sure, I had some Pollyanna* tendencies to begin with. But this simple practice pushed me into a strange, permanently joyful mindset.

Yi Shun Lai
Published in
6 min readOct 28, 2021


Goofy smizing yellow lab
Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Habit trackers are just that: a method by which you notate each day you do a thing. Say you want to track your exercise: you might mark that in your calendar. Say you want to track drinking 8 glasses of water a day. You might mark that down, too. If you’re using a traditional agenda, you might put a checkmark or a little crab*** or dot or something on each day you do this thing.

I resisted tracking my habits formally for a really long time. Some of that resistance was sheer cussedness: If you can’t even make a habit, what the hell kind of grown-ass human being are you? went the thinking. Yes, it was needlessly cruel. There’s no shame in needing or wanting help, for anything.

The other part of it was envy. If you Google “habit trackers,” you come up with all manner of intimidating layouts. They are all gorgeous. I mean, criminey, look at this:

nautilus-shaped habit tracker, filled out in rainbow colors, with a legend and a list on the side.

Or this:

daily habit tracker with a list of habits down the side and dates across the top, filled out in rainbow colors

Or, holy beans, this, from my dear friend Rachael’s planner.

two months of habit tracking, dates across the top and habits down the side. filled out in various color schemes.

I mean, how is a person supposed to measure up?

The point is, one isn’t supposed to measure up. One is supposed to do what works for oneself. Once I abandoned that idea, things felt a lot easier. My own habit tracker isn’t ever going to look like any of these. I tried multiple colors; it didn’t work. This month and last I tried different symbols for each day, and I don’t think that’s going to stick either. What feels like it’ll work for me is one color per one day of habit, and that’s okay.



Yi Shun Lai

Author: A SUFFRAGISTS’S GUIDE TO THE ANTARCTIC (2024), Pin Ups (2020). Columnist, The Writer.; @gooddirt. Psst: Say “yeeshun.” You can do it!