Is this new habit sustainable?

Feb 08, 2021

Is this new habit sustainable? That's the first thing I ask myself when trying to build a new habit.

I'm not referring to environmental sustainability. By sustainable, I mean: can I continue to do this thing in the way I'm doing it for a long period of time?

It can pay to be a person of extremes

In some areas, it can be valuable to be a person of extremes. To be clear: I'm talking about extreme habits or activities here, not extremism in the politically loaded sense.

For example, focusing on a skill longer than everybody else and getting extremely good at it. Or some people consider a plant based diet to be extreme. It's extreme until you do it... and then it's not. It's just your new baseline.

I care more about doing a thing regularly than doing it with intensity

But there's one area where I consciously avoid being extreme: when building new habits. Deciding to go from zero to one hundred before you've even started doing something sounds crazy to me.

Ideas like, "I haven't exercised in months so I'm now going to start running for an hour, three times a week, every week" - until when? The rest of your life? Do you know if you even enjoy running?

When starting a new habit, I care more about doing a thing regularly than doing it with intensity. If I haven't exercised in weeks or months, I'll be more likely to get into a routine if I start with a light workout every day for a week. It turns exercising into a habit. From there, I can increase the intensity whenever I want.

If I don't do this, I'll end up deciding to do something like "do an intense HIIT workout 6 days a week" then burn out on day 3 and never do it again. I've made that mistake more than enough times 😄

Know what works best for you

With all this said, some people thrive on extremes. I have some friends who stick with routines better if they feel like they're fully committing to something. If that's you, be aware of it and go for it.

Deploy some self awareness, figure out what works best for you, then go do it.