What is a habit?
For some that might mean something they do every day. For others, it’s something they don’t have to think about. And, for others, it’s a misspelling of a little person who roams around the shire. You know, a hobbit? Anywho…
Something I’ve seen time and time again in my life is people will argue a point around an idea before ever agreeing upon a mutual definition of the idea.
I don’t think I can count the number of times I was on the same page with another person’s ideology without even knowing it. I’m as stubborn as a donkey on a lazy Sunday evening, and, I sometimes won’t budge.
So, let’s agree upon a definition of a habit.
Oxford defines a habit as actually 2 different nouns and a verb:
So as to avoid alienating any monks that are out in the world (keep on making your delicious beers bro) let’s start with the definition of “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”
“one that is hard to give up.”
I don’t mind that definition, but…Oxford defines words without being an expert in the field. And, we can agree, a habit can be quite easy to give up. So, let’s turn to James Clear, a current though leader in Building and Maintaining habits.
“Let’s define habits. Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you perform every day.”– James Clear
Interestingly enough, James also removes the “hard to give up” which makes sense because everyone who has ever started a habit understands how easy it is to have a habit go to the wayside.
Here’s my personal definition of habits
For me, habits are near-thoughtless actions that are made repeatedly and regularly over a long period of time.
Here’s where I differ in my definition: I don’t believe habits have to be performed every day. If you traveled once a month, every month, for many years; I could say that you have a habit of traveling once a month. Simply because you don’t travel every day doesn’t omit that you have a habit to travel; we can tell it is a habit because we are changing the way we view the time span, every month, between the regular action taken, to travel.
Now, here’s the question: if you travel once a month, every month for a 3 years, and you skip a 2 months somewhere in those 36 months is traveling once a month still a habit?
I would say yes, and here a semi-radical new idea from me: flex habits.
What is a flex habit?
A flex habit is a habit that can be consciousness skipped on occasion to nurture the longevity of that specific habit.
For example, last week my client load at Mumarkt, my digital marketing freelance gig I run, increased. This was at first really exciting, and after the excitement wore off I realized something. I knew that if I tried to maintain the client load while still doing everything I normally do (my habits), I would get little to no sleep, mess up, and create a big mess for myself.
This would mean unhappy clients, unhappy Austin, and half-ass jobs all around.
So, I flexed, or rather I didn’t physically flex. I didn’t go to the gym last week at all. And, I didn’t feel remotely bad about it nor did I stop going to the gym as a habit because:
- I told myself I would get back to the gym fist thing on Monday (which I did).
- Missing a week if I’m planning on working out for the rest of my life makes the week inconsequential in the long run.
The major key to flexing a habit is a conscious skip instead of an easy excuse.
What a flex habit is NOT.
A flex habit is not an excuse to create a negative habit that replaces the old habit.
If I were to not to the gym for half a year and call it a flex in my habit, I would be kidding myself. At that point, I would have broken my gym habit and most likely replaced it with a new habit such as sitting on the couch and watching Frodo and Sam take the ring to Mordor. Go guys go!
A flex habit is not a frequent habit skipping either, nor does it apply to one-off things we try out. I mean, I’ve done a couple hip hop classes over the years, but I wouldn’t call that a habit.
A flex habit still obeys the dedication behind a true habit with a stronger awareness of the long term dedication that makes any habit, well, a habit.
This is how I apply flex habits in my life.
It all starts with self-awareness and a combination of killing off my black and white thinking. It’s easy to miss one day in a habit, feel like I’ve failed, and never do the habit again. Maybe you’ve experienced this as well.
First, I need be self-aware of my habits. How long have I been dedicated to maintaining a habit? What does the habit provide for me? How do I feel after I’ve performed my said habit? How do I feel if I do not perform my said habit? How much time does my habit take? What are the parameters I’ve set for myself around my habit?
I ask myself all these question to better understand the story I’m telling myself around my habits. The stories I tell myself informs me how much or little I am self-aware of the reality I’ve built for myself.
Next, I need to check in with myself and be honest. If I skip today, will I dedicate to going tomorrow? Am I at a point that I can flex without breaking a habit? Is it necessary that I flex or am I creating an excuse to not do my habit? Will I feel like I have failed my habit if I miss a day? (If the answer to this one is yes, then I am not ready to flex on this habit quite yet.)
My favorite YouTuber Matt D’Avella has a pretty cool flex habit that he’s built, and it’s called The 2 Day Rule. Watch the video below. It’s a bit longer, but his content is beautifully crafted and tells an amazing story. Careful, you might just get hooked on his content like me. (It’s worth the addiction.)
The take away on flex habits.
Flex habits are a pretty cool way I’ve learned to balance a lot of different areas of my life. I’m currently working a full time job, managing a client load with my digital marketing business, writing 2 blogs a week for this blog, going to the gym 5 days a week, making new connections, reading new content, spending time with friends, and still finding time to blow some stress off by playing MineCrack. Sorry, I meant MineCraft. (Miss-type I swear…)
None of this would be possible if I hadn’t worked on having a healthy relationship with my habits and the ability to flex them at times. Sometimes different areas of my life need more focus, and through this method I’ve been able to keep all my habits for the long run without sacrificing my sanity in the short run.
For me, it’s all a balancing act for providing future value in my life while maintaining my happiness. The longer some of these habits go, the better my life seems to get. In the long run, I am betting that they’ll even take less time and deliver better results.
My habits make me happier, and I choose to be happy.
What is a habit for you?
Much love, as always,
P.S. Dear reader on the other side of this page
Hi, it’s Austin! Thank you for reading, for the love, and for the support.
A good way you can show your love and support for this project is by subscribing to my newsletter.
I want to reach more people with these messages, and your subscription in joining my newsletter helps me drive this project forward.
That being said, I totally understand over-inundated email inboxes, so only subscribe if I’ve provided some value for you. Regardless, you reading my thoughts is more than enough and fills me with happiness.