Why smart and creative people are bad at habits (and what to do about it)

Because they’re too creative and smart for their own good.

They think. Too much. They mistake knowing something, with understanding something.

I’ve talked to many people who say: “I really ought to run/write my novel/take Amish quilting lessons. I know I should, but I can’t make myself do it.”

Here’s what I’ve learned and seen other people practice successfully: Do it until it feels good.

It took me 10 years to start a regular yoga habit — 10 flippin’ YEARS. I’d sit there, between years 1 and 9 thinking “I know yoga is good for me. I know I like how I feel after it’s done. I’ll do it.” And then I’d sit there and not do it.

This was immensely frustrating: I knew yoga would make me feel good, so why couldn’t I do it?

Do it until it feels good. That’s what I did in year 10. I started with 5m, everyday, first thing in the morning. 6 weeks later I was up to 20m. Now, I cannot NOT do it.

Why? Because I don’t only KNOW it feels good (in my creative, squirrely, mental brain) my body UNDERSTANDS that it feels good.

My body is slow, but wise. When it learns something it holds on to it. My brain is smarter, but has 1000s of thoughts running through it a day.

Smart and creative people are often disconnected from their body. It happens when you get lost in thought, or excited about creative projects where your mind in spewing forth inspiration. Also: if you’re smart you can spend too much time deliberating: Should I run, do yoga, or bodyweight exercises? Would it be best to edit my 4th chapter, work on the end, or outline the middle?

Stop. Do it. Do it now. Do it until it feels good.

Creative people find consistency challenging. Routine is boring. It’s uninspiring. I know people who can write a screenplay for 9 hours straight when the muse hits, but can’t do 5m of writing a day for 5 days straight. Unfortunately, consistent routine is how our bodies learn.

So just frickin’ do it now. Until it…what? Feels good.

I’ve seen this work for others, again and again: A friend, not running for years, thinking she couldn’t run, downloads an audio guide called Couch to 5K. She’s run 2 of them now. It’s not that she doesn’t fall off the wagon. But now she misses it and is motivated to get back to it again, because she knows it feels good.

What do you wish you did more of? Do it for 5m today and for the rest of this week. And then 10m the next. And keep doing it for at least 4 weeks.

Do it until it feels good.




One Comment to “Why smart and creative people are bad at habits (and what to do about it)”

  1. Not surprisingly, I’m in the midst of this struggle with meditation. Doing it consistently for a month, then falling off. Getting back on the cushion, and then falling off.

    I know that part of this is the craziness of my sleep schedule having kids and being an equal parent with my wife, but part of it’s not. Part of it is just me feeling like I don’t want to do it, even though I know it feels good when I sit. Too much routine feels like I’m not free anymore, like I can’t just do what I want, even though I know I want to feel good after I do the meditation.

    I also think part of this is the cycle of exhaustion. I stop meditating because I want more rest (even tho I’m better rested after the meditation), then I fall off the cushion and it takes me longer to get rested, then I slowly get rested and manage to reconnect with my wisdom/passion and am able to get fired and consistent about meditation again. But may, that can be a demoralizing cycle, especially when I’m not meditating but telling myself I SHOULD be meditating. That’s a lot of dysfunction around doing the things I know are good for me and know I want to do, but just don’t want to do.

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