What I learned about building habits from 30 days of exercise

As of this morning, I’ve done some sort of bodyweight exercise for 30 days straight. It’s been mostly push-ups, with some chin-up training, dips, and squats, mixing it up with lighter and heavier days so I don’t over exert myself.

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I use the Todoist app to remind myself to do this (and some other fundamental things) every morning. It’s one of a very limited set of Q2 activities I have set as a top priority. After I check off the activity in Todoist I then mark the chain in a calendar using a “chain” app. There’s tons of these. I like the Your Chain! app and that’s where I grabbed the screenshot above.

What have I learned? Probably the first thing to note is that this milestone of 30 straight days of exercise — one I haven’t hit before — is the result of literal decades of failure to do something like this. So, I haven’t actually learned anything in 30 days. It’s been more like, I’ve learned a lot of things just by living, trying, failing, and trying again.

Which brings me to the second thing I’ve learned from trying to build good habits, something that seems really obvious but I don’t think it really sinks home until you face it: you can always try again. Miss a day? A week? A year? A decade? You can just try again.

When you’re trying again, start small. Like, really small. My 30 days of exercise was preceded by another month of haphazard exercise but I started small. With one push-up a day. The next day I took it to two push-ups. And so on. I knew I could do more than that but I also know that I have a tendency to want to ramp up too quickly, get hurt or discouraged, and then stop. So I started small. I missed a few days and then came back to it.

And I was lucky enough to remember why I started. Remember why you started is one of the little inspirational sayings that’ll pop up in the Your Chain! app as you progress. I’ve tried to recall it when I’m tired or rushed with other habits I’m trying to build and it’s helped me press on.

Lastly, I’ve learned that everyone is different. You have to figure out what works for you. What worked for other people in building habits hasn’t always worked for me. And what works for me might or might not work for you. One book that really takes this idea to heart is Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I recommend checking it out. Also good but, in my opinion, more entertaining than informative, is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles DuhiggRubin has read The Power of Habit so if you read Better Than Before you get the best of Duhigg’s book too. 

Good luck with whatever you’re trying to do. 🙂

 

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