Breaking – and making – habits

Habits are one of those things where it’s either hard to start, or hard to get rid of. Unfortunately, as with most people, I have far too little good habits, and far too many bad habits. My bad habits I could write a small novella on: biting my lip, chewing my lip till it bleeds, procrastinating (as I am doing now, writing this), watching too much YouTube, too much “talk” and not enough “action”, putting off my readings until it’s far too late… so on, so forth.

My good habits, uh. Ah. Does meticulously packing my bags the night before count?

One of my worst habits, however, is my reliance on technology. More accurately, that if I’m off the computer, I’m usually on my smartphone. In my defence, it’s mostly for information – I have no patience for mobile gaming, especially since my computer is powerful enough to run most of what I like to play. However, it does still eat up my time, moreso if I’m browsing, say, TVTropes or forums on my phone.

So, I figured – since I’m using the phone so often, why don’t I get around to using it to form good habits? Thus begun my – rather ironic, I think – attempt to build good habits by using an app to record my progress. Sounds counter-intuitive. But it works.I know, yes, I do. Good habits should be formed by sheer force of will, and I daresay my inability to do so speaks immense volumes of how weak a will and focus I have. I have a short attention span. Not enough determination. Not enough resilience. It’s one of the chief complaints of the employers nowadays, why the people born in the 90s – I daresay 2000s – are so disposable. To some extent, I agree, but today isn’t a treatise on why we’re being overlooked, and why, despite our quirks, we’re as valuable – if not moreso – than the generations before us. Instant gratification, entitlement. Those are the words that are bandied around that apply to us.

The funny thing is, despite all the snooty pooh-poohing and the laments about why our generation will lead the world to ruin (supposedly), it’s human nature. Everyone wants instant gratification. Everyone wants to see results, and they want them now. It’s not a new phenomena, otherwise why else would there be so many advertisements – that work – of diets achieving results in two weeks? Or the secret to earning millions in a day? Why do so many people fall for it, despite the age-old mantra “You have to work hard to succeed”?

It’s hard to feel you’re doing something productive when you can’t see the results. When you can’t see the impact. For me, it’s even worse. When I’m doing studies, all I can hold on to is the vague hope that when the time comes, my brain will magically recall everything and I’ll glide my way to success. Fat chance, but it’s good to dream.

Which is why for me, these habit-making apps work. My efforts are no longer some sort of abstract concept floating in the air. I can see numbers, figures. A small sense of achievement when I log in and see the stats. It’s shallow, it’s ridiculously short-sighted, but it keeps me going. It shows me yes, I’ve been productive, and I sleep a little easier at night.

Maybe one day I’ll grow out of it, when I finally have a habit set. So far, I’ve got a streak around three weeks long, and it’s quantifiable and I feel proud of it, albeit I won’t be prancing around telling everyone because that’s just silly. Now, let’s hope it lasts a bit longer.


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