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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Habits

In Forge. More on Medium.

👵 Tip: Tell yourself you can restart the habit when you’re 80.

In quitting smoking, Better Humans editor Terrie Schweitzer shares what worked for her: Reassuring herself that she could pick up cigarettes again when she turns 80. (She is nowhere near 80.) The reason why this mental trick was so effective has to do with identity. “I was grieving the loss of my identity as a smoker and the overwhelm of trying to make such an inconceivable life change,” Schweitzer writes. “This little practice of reassurance helped get me push through that, until I no longer needed a way…

How to track your routines when the idea of tracking anything fills you with existential dread

Photo: Mayur Kakade/Getty Images

I have never been someone who enjoys organizing, de-cluttering, or doing anything administrative. I am comfortable with some level of chaos and my inclination to impose order on it is fairly selective. I want structure for big projects and tasks (running an organization day-to-day, getting long-term projects with a lot of moving parts done), but I’m ambivalent about the micro stuff.

So while I know that habit tracking helps habits stick, it’s always felt to me like one more administrative thing to do. Even opening an app has been too much of a chore. …

There’s a much more effective way to conquer your vices

Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there’s a scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are captured by a magical plant called Devil’s Snare. The vines wrap around their bodies like hungry pythons as they struggle to escape.

“You have to relax,” Hermione tells the other two. “If you don’t, it’ll only kill you faster.”

“Kill us faster?!” shouts Ron, suddenly struggling even more. “Now I can relax!!”

Kudos to J.K. Rowling for this brilliant illustration of a psychological phenomenon called ironic processing, in which deliberate attempts to avoid certain thoughts make those thoughts even more persistent. Russian novelist and…

Try building a “better than nothing” habit

Credit: Kohei Hara/Getty Images

Like many people, I’ve tried to pass the time over the past year by forming some new habits: running, baking, writing every day, learning new card tricks to dazzle friends at future dinner parties (those will be a thing again, won’t they?). Each of these pursuits started strong… until I gave up shortly thereafter.

I had lofty visions of being good at these things immediately. And I just didn’t like being bad. But that was the problem: I was fixated on high achievement, when I should have been focused on repetition.

In a recent TED talk, the sociologist Christine Carter…

Here’s the real way to change a habit

Photo illustration; Image sources: Zen Rial/diyun Zhu/st_lux/Getty Images

Many years ago, I developed something of a Filene’s Basement shopping problem. I was in my early twenties and in my first office job, so I did in fact need affordable work clothes. But the real reason I found myself browsing the racks daily is that I needed to walk through the store to get from my Metro stop to the exit closest to my house.

That’s how habits work: We do what’s easy. We’re much less likely to do what seems complicated or difficult. I like to think of myself as a disciplined person, but that’s not how I…

Photo: Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images

Despite knowing that most New Year’s resolutions end in failure, it’s hard to resist the urge to suddenly “improve” myself every January. You’d think I’d know better, especially as someone who works at Forge. And yet, I sort of believed that in 2021 I’d not only become devoted to exercise—in my mind, the worst activity imaginable—but that I’d seamlessly transform into a runner during the darkest, coldest time of the year. Running seemed easy and free and like I could do it whenever, and thus, a good fitness thing (is that what they are called?) to try.

So far, I’ve…

The key to changing your habits is changing the way you think about habits

Animated gif of a clock with hour hand spinning that says “IF” and “WHEN” in alternation.
Animated gif of a clock with hour hand spinning that says “IF” and “WHEN” in alternation.

On December 24, 2016, I went for a run. This wasn’t unusual — I’d gone running four to five times a week for years. But after I managed to run every day for the following week, I decided to keep going. I decided I would run at least a mile, every day. I’d long been fascinated by streaks; my father, a now-retired professor of Hebrew scriptures, has read Hebrew every day since 1977. I suspected I lacked that sort of staying power, but I did hope my running streak could last a month or two.

It wound up lasting for…

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

🏋️ Today’s tip: The first step of starting a habit is giving yourself a new label.

Let’s say, for example, that you’ve decided this is the year you’re going to get really into running. Step one, before you even lace up your sneakers? Start thinking of yourself as a runner.

“If you still identify as somebody who hates to run, or somebody who doesn’t run, the energetic slog of getting yourself to do it is so much heftier,” explains Jen Sincero, author of Badass Habits. …

Today’s tip: Pair every goal with one concrete habit.

The key to following through on your big, lofty goals? Getting specific. Granular, even.

Gretchen Rubin, host of the podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin and the author of several books on happiness, suggests paring every goal down to a single, concrete habit. For instance, if the goal is “have a fuller social life,” the habit can be “set aside the first Monday of every month for a standing date with friends.” All it takes is a small shift in framing to put those big-picture resolutions into action.

📚 More from…

📱 Today’s tip: Reduce the temptation to check social media by setting your phone to grayscale.

Sure, most of us could stand to cut down on our aimless scrolling. But as Adam Bell explains on OneZero, there’s a sweet spot between staring glassy-eyed at your Instagram feed for hours and going completely cold turkey. “Quitting social media can be isolating, with a legitimate ‘fear of missing out’ on watching your friend’s children grow, or staying in the loop with extended family,” he writes.

Instead of quitting, make the experience a less pleasurable one by adjusting your phone’s settings. “Rewards from…

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