“Rituals Trump Willpower” by Robin Estevez

In the last 30 days you’ve seen me develop and cultivate a new habit of writing daily. I have always written on and off but never consistently and with intention. It is something I enjoy and wanted to make it a daily habit. The push to commit came from Winnie Kao’s, (Seth Godin’s assistant & my favorite author) “Your Turn Challenge” where she challenged participants to write and ship for 7 days! I was in and knew right away that I would go for a full 30 days to make it a habit.

In order to be successful I knew that I would have to make writing part of my morning routine. For me developing positive morning rituals sets up the day for continuous wins. There are entire books dedicated to the theme of developing habits. If you want to dig deeper pick up these books “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Daily Rituals: How Artist Work” by Mason Currey to really get a greater understanding and learn the science behind your habits. I’m going to summarize them for you and give you a sneak peak into my morning routine.

My morning routine really starts off the night before where I set small triggers to push/pull me forward into flow. For a few years now I’ve followed this routine which I like to call “my PMED+W” (a name I borrowed from my friend Lee Brower & added the +W to). PMED stands for Prayer, Meditation, Exercise, Diet, and Writing. Before going to bed each night I set up different “stations” throughout my home for each. So that once I wake up as I’m walking throughout my house they trigger my desired action…the gym clothes set out the night before I put them on am ready to break a sweat. My bible and journal remind me to pray, encourage my faith, give thanks and write. A favorite chair to meditate in. I need not think about them they just happen and really only take a few extra minutes in the morning/evening to help me along in my quest to become the best version of myself. (Your routine should be simple enough that anyone could follow them with a simple set of instructions.)

You will find that developing good habits are more about ritual than willpower. Willpower is hard and ever fleeting that’s why when you’ve had a long stressful day it’s easier to cop out and order a burger and fries even though you eaten well all day. This happens because willpower combined with decision fatigue have been used up essentially the tank is empty. It’s also why Steve Jobs and others wear the same outfit daily. They don’t want to use up their willpower on non-important tasks like what to wear. You see willpower and decision fatigue don’t care if you’re negotiating a $1,000,000 deal or what to shirt to wear they both tax your willpower reservoir just the same. So you should really use your willpower for those meaningful important choices you need to make ritualize the rest.

The easy way to eliminate the hard work of building a great set of habits is by building a routine around your desired outcome. In my case I wanted to write daily consistently and with intention. I found the space right after prayer and reading the bible to be the best fit for it. Before would drink my coffee checking email and social media. Now I’m writing as I drink my coffee – social media will have to wait to later in the day.
I asked myself which is most important to me? Writing or checking emails, Facebook or Twitter. It was an easy change and fit perfectly into my routine. I cannot stress this enough if you want to improve in some aspect of your life look for triggers and habits you have built around it. What is your desired action/outcome? How can you make them recur without or minimal effort? Look to build upon those good habits you have and use them as a jumping point.

Finally it is commonly known that it takes about 21 days to create a new habit. That gives you 17 opportunities throughout the year to develop entirely new set of habits. Think about if you just improved just 2 or 3.

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