The Anatomy of a Zen Habit
There is a blog out there called Zen Habits. You may have heard of it. You probably read it regularly. If not, I highly recommend it.
This post, The Anatomy of a Zen Habit will explain why we have made Zen Habits, (the website) part of our lives and the whys and hows of habit breaking and making.
Through his website and books, Leo Babauta has shown us that a regular person can do extraordinary things. As a husband and father of 6, Babauta quit smoking, lost weight, ran a marathon, adopted a vegetarian diet, turned his blog into a successful business, tripled his income and quit his job, and through all of that taught us how to do it too.
Zen Habits has more than 210,000 subscribers and even more readers. There is no doubt that Leo worked hard, especially at first to grow his blog. He worked a full time job, while writing morning, noon and night and then some. Even so, there is more to the success of Zen Habits than luck and hard work.
Top 5 Reasons (in my opinion) for Leo Babauta’s Success
- Leo is relatable.
- He writes good stuff.
- He keeps learning and sharing his secrets.
- The information he provides is helpful & honest.
- He’s a good guy.
In order to really break down the anatomy of a Zen habit, I went straight to the source. Leo was kind enough to answer a few questions to help break down the importance of Zen, habits and procrastination.
What does Zen even mean?
Leo: It means different things to every person. For me it is simply a way to learn to be present, to live in the moment. That’s a very simple thing, but it turns out it changes everything.
Why are we so attracted to developing better habits?
Leo: There is an optimist in most of us, who despite evidence of failed attempts throughout our lives, believes we can become better. This optimist wants us to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly become. Developing better habits is one way to become that person.
If we so desire good habits, why do we practice bad habits?
Leo: Habits, once ingrained, go on autopilot. They become a part of who we are, and unless we consciously and very powerfully concentrate on changing those habits, we’ll keep doing them. Bad habits start very small — just a puff of a cigarette (I won’t get addicted, I can quit later), just a small indulgence in dessert (I won’t get fat, I’ll eat healthy tomorrow), just a moment of laziness (it won’t hurt to lay on the couch and watch TV, I can exercise later). They have positive reinforcement built in. And then we repeat them for the same reason, and repeat again. Then they’re habits. The good news is positive habits can be formed using the same method.
Is it better to break a bad habit or acquire a new good habit?
Leo: Acquire a new good habit to replace the old bad habit after the bad habit’s trigger. Just quitting a bad habit can be miserable. Starting a new good habit can be enjoyable if you make it so. So: if you smoke after eating (your trigger), replace it with stretching and taking a walk in fresh air. That’s enjoyable, and it makes changing the habit enjoyable (a positive reinforcement).
Procrastinating is considered a bad habit, but is there some good in putting things off?
Leo: Of course! We are not machines, and productivity for the sake of cranking out endless widgets is useless. We need breaks, we need our minds to be refreshed, we need idleness because that’s where we get creative. Life should be enjoyed, slowly, like a full-bodied wine or a rich dessert.
Do you think we procrastinate out of habit, fear or something else?
Leo: Fear is the biggest reason, but because of fear it can become a habit — it’s easier to shirk from something we’re afraid of and do something that has positive reinforcement instead. Once it’s a habit, it’s hard (but not impossible) to change. Lack of motivation is another huge reason we procrastinate — we just don’t want to do the hard things bad enough.
What do you procrastinate?
Leo: Oh, everything. I am no robot. I get passionate about exercise, for example, so I’ll read the workout routines of amazingly fit people instead of doing work, and get lost in my reading. The good news is that I can later turn that into “research” and do a blog post about it!
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