Breaking habits and creating long-term, sustainable, behavior change is challenging for everyone. In theory, it should be simple. Just do the new thing you want to do. But we all know it’s not that easy.
What makes it so complicated? It’s not about the behavior.
Earlier this week, I published to my website for the 120th consecutive day. This is huge. 120 days is a significant milestone in creating a sustainable ritual. I’m really proud of this accomplishment and I have been riding high on the celebration all week.
The consistency with publishing daily is something I struggled for years to achieve.
Most advice I’ve read about how to create a daily writing and blogging practice sounds like this:
Put your ass in the chair.
Whenever I hear this advice, I feel like Linus Caldwell and Rusty Ryan in Ocean’s Eleven:
Linus: Smash and grab job, huh?
Rusty: Slightly more complicated than that.
Linus: Well, yeah.
Yeah. Slightly more complicated than that.
Behavior change. Breaking habits. Creating long-term, sustainable, daily streaks in a new ritual is challenging. For everyone.
What makes it so complicated?
It’s Not All About the Behavior
The actions alone are only part of the puzzle. The mechanics of going to the gym, of sitting for meditation, of writing, cooking — whatever you want to do — are fairly straightforward.
What makes it so complicated is the mindset.
Every ritual I’ve designed over the years has required mindset shifts. Each has forced me to create tradeoffs and clarify priorities. Each has demanded me to grow in new ways, and explore my edge.
But none has pushed me to my edge more than daily publishing.
Why Is Daily Publishing So Difficult?
Here’s the hardest part about daily publishing: Clicking PUBLISH.
That little green button comes alive. It taunts and teases. It triggers my worst fears.
Clicking the PUBLISH button means I must declare my piece complete — at least complete enough for now. And it almost never feels complete.
That’s the challenge. And the practice.
Rituals break habits.
Even before I get to the publish button, publishing daily presents other obstacles. Most of the obstacles that show up when I condition a new ritual are habits that I must break to engage in the new behavior.
Rituals break habits. They bring awareness to the habits that get in our way.
Publishing daily has illuminated some of my most destructive and tenacious habits: Perfectionism. Doubts. Second-guessing. Overthinking. Over-complicating. Overworking.
The past four months have been a daily exercise in the art of letting go.
The Path of Fear
With the click of the green button, I open myself to the world. I open myself to you.
And what if you don’t get it?
Even worse, what if you do? What if you get what I’m sharing, what if it helps you, and you come to rely on it, and then I let you down?
There are so many reasons not to click that green button.
If you’re thinking, that’s a lot of meaning to put into a little green button….
Of course it is. That’s the point.
The Obstacle is Your Mindset
The obstacle to sustainable behavior change is your mindset — your fears and habits. The fears that arise for me in publishing my work don’t arise in my Fitness First ritual, in daily meditation, or in my daily writing ritual, although each of those rituals has triggered other fears.
Fears are always there. Sabotaging habits are there. Obstacles are there. On the path. They occupy the space between where you are and where you want to be.
The prevailing wisdom is to stay positive and visualize your success. Many people don’t want to look at what could go wrong. They want to maintain a positive mindset.
This is a mistake. A positive mindset is important, but even more important, is knowing where you’re headed. You must know where the traps are before you get on the course.
Those fears and habits are there, whether you see them or not. That’s what makes this process complicated.
But knowing that these obstacles are there, seeing them, and acknowledging them, is what makes this doable.
Navigating around the obstacles is a crucial piece of how I finally put together this daily publishing streak — and how I’ve created all of my rituals.
Creating lasting and sustainable behavior change is not only about the behavior. You must focus on the mindset and psychology too.
You cannot navigate the path of behavior change unless you see the obstacles.
The question for you is: are you willing to look?