Key to Habit Change: Enjoy the Activity

Many people try to form habits that they don’t enjoy, because they think it’s virtuous, or because it will lead to a goal they want (flatter stomach, losing weight, financial wealth, etc.).

But this is a recipe for failure. When you try to exercise “discipline”, what that really means is forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. This will only last for a little while, and then you’ll inevitably give up.

Trust me. I’ve fought this battle too many times to count.

So what’s the answer? Enjoy the activity.

If one person does an exercise activity he loves, and another an exercise she hates, guess who will stay with it the longest?

If you look forward to the activity, no matter what it is, you’re going to have a huge advantage in making the activity into a habit. You’ll still need to follow the steps in the method, but if you ignore the enjoyment aspect, the method won’t work very well at all.

What if you want to form a habit that you don’t particularly enjoy? Again, like exercise, or waking early, or flossing, or whatever? You’re going to need to find ways to enjoy the activity.

Some ideas:

  • Find exercise you enjoy, and focus on the enjoyable aspects as you do it. Don’t think about how difficult it is.
  • Play! Whether it’s playing a sport as exercise or going outside with your kids and running and jumping around, find a way to turn something you don’t normally find fun into a game or into some kind of play.
  • Set up a competition — with whatever your goal activity is, whether that be saving money or writing every day — between you and others, or just against yourself.
  • Create an enjoyable experience. Play nice music when you meditate, get some coffee for when you write, drink tea as you read a novel, and so on.
  • If you’re trying to eat healthy, choose healthy foods you love. Focus on how lovely the foods are, not on what you’re sacrificing.
  • If you’re trying to quit a habit you find pleasurable (smoking, for example), don’t focus on how you’re giving up pleasure. Instead, think of the negative aspects of the activity (the bad taste smoking gives you afterward, or how it makes your clothes stink, or what it’s doing to your lungs and the rest of your body, or the cancer it causes) … and then replace it with something that you find pleasurable. For example, going outside for a refreshing walk, or spending time with a loved one.

There are many other ways to make something enjoyable, but however you do it, don’t ignore this advice. Your new habit depends on it.