Waking Up: The Problem With Good Habits

Have you ever gone through the motions for so long that you forgot why you were even doing it in the first place?

Time passes by without you noticing. Hours slip through your fingers and you stay the same. Doing the same thing, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. You stagnate while the world passes you by.

It’s not always this way. Sometimes that daily grind can be a good thing, especially when you’re trying to instill good habits into your life. Things like waking up early or working out are great habits to instill.

All Good Habits Aren’t Good

In fact, the entire point of habits is to be able to do without thinking. To act without getting caught up in your head, debating whether or not you want to do what you know you should. In these situations, falling into a routine is the best thing you could ask for. Then there are those times when your well-intentioned habits turn into a negative.

I’m not talking about all habits in general, we all have inherently bad habits after all (like my late night snacking problem). I’m talking about habits that were positive influences on your life. At least in the beginning. These habits often start out as valuable endeavors, but they can transform into something else. This happens when you hit a plateau in your ability and it’s no longer serving the purpose you set out to achieve.

In these moments, habits can be a terrible thing, because you go into auto-pilot and overlook the stagnation you’re suffering from. You don’t even notice the lack of value you’re getting from what you’re doing, simply because that habit has become so ingrained into your routine. This is particularly bad when it comes to creative work.

Maybe you started working out, but you’re not seeing any gains and not doing anything about it. Maybe you learned to code, but you keep re-treading the same ground, rather than moving outside your comfort zone. Maybe you picked up painting, but you’re just making more and more of the same type of work with little improvement. Maybe you started writing, but are struggling with inspiration and direction.

I started writing on this blog almost two years ago, to serve not only as an outlet for the things I wanted to share with others but also as a way to improve my writing. I wanted to find my voice. I wanted to learn how to write thousands of words at a moment’s notice. I wanted to understand structure and story. Ultimately, I wanted to learn how to write.

Initially, it was exhilarating and challenging and I was pushing myself to put out my best work. I was learning quickly and was seeing results, especially over the first few months. Over time though, I noticed that my writing was growing stale and my effort wasn’t where I wanted it to be. What once felt like an invaluable outlet for my self-expression, had turned into an annoying commitment I had to slog through every week. I was doing it because I had to, not because I wanted to.

Opening My Eyes

I feel like I’ve woken up recently. I finally realized that I’ve not been doing my best work when it came to writing here and for my newsletter. They felt more like errands on my to-do list, not creative opportunities to put my best foot forward.

It took me awhile to notice, but I finally did. I had been going through the motions for a while. That’s not to say all my work suffered. I’d put out good work here and there, things that really resonated with me and that I was proud of, but that was happening far less often than it should have.

More importantly, I did learn a lot about writing that I had initially set out to. I can pound out thousands of words on a deadline. I can put together coherent writing about a whole range of subjects. But as far as taking that next step, I felt stuck. For the most part, these past few months have been covered in a hazy fog that I haven’t been able to break through.

Something about my writing process is broken, at least in this form. I think this is for a few reasons. Part of it is probably related to stretching myself thin across other projects and writing efforts, but that just seems like an excuse.

Part of it is a lack of direction in what I want to write about in the first place. Some weeks it can feel like pulling teeth to put together 1,000 words on any subject, simply because I’m lacking inspiration.

Part of it is simply that I’ve outgrown this mode of writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I’ll never stop. That being said, I do believe I need a change and I think that every creator comes across similar bumps in the road.

Those moments where we stagnate, we get stuck, and we plateau. We often keep chugging along, largely out of habit, until we finally realize that we’re just spinning our wheels. It is in these moments that we need to not only notice what is happening, but we also need to take action. We need to change, evolve, and adapt to ensure we keep growing and creating to the best of our abilities.

Are you going through something similar? Are you just not feeling it lately? Are you stuck and in need of a clean start? If you are, maybe you need to examine those habits that you once thought were infallible. They may be in need of a change. I know they are for me.

On some level, I feel like I’ve failed my readers, by not creating to the best of my ability and for that, I apologize. But I also want you to know that I’m taking steps to address that problem.

Going forward, I won’t be writing or publishing my newsletter on a weekly basis. Instead, I plan to leave things open-ended and only share things that are truly worth your time. Things that are thought-provoking, interesting, and valuable. Things that I’m proud to be sharing. That may be once a month or once a year, I don’t know.

What I do know is that my goal going forward is to rediscover the why in my words and make sure it’s something that everyone can appreciate. Let’s see what happens next.

Originally published at alyjuma.com on April 25, 2018.



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Aly Juma

Writer that designs — or is it the other way around? Digital executive, author, creator of t-shirts, and lover of books.