This month I joined the Sea Change program, which is Leo Babuta’s program to create habit changing ninjas.
The Sea Change program is as simple as it is awesome. Take on one new habit each month. By the end of the year you will have 12 new habits. And built the most important habit of all.
The habit creating habit.
This month the habit was writing daily. As part of this month’s program Leo hosted a webinar to talk about daily writing and habit creation.
Habit and A Snow Covered Field
At the start of the webinar, Leo asked us to visualize a picture of a wide-open field of snow. “In that field you can walk anywhere you want to. At the beginning you’re making your own path so everything is new.”
“At first you go somewhere and then you follow your own footsteps back. The first time it’s hard and the second time it’s easier. Each time you go it’s a little bit easier.”
“Now you have a path that’s much easier to walk on. And walking off the path becomes harder.”
This is a great explanation of how our first habits are formed. Often these habits are formed not with intention, but out of necessity.
Next Leo discussed how we get stuck and how we can start to get out.
“Now let’s say you’ve been going in the same path for years. If we want to change, first we have to step through fresh snow. We have to be very conscious when we create this new groove.”
To change our grooves takes intention, effort, and vision. Leo makes a point to note how important that vision is.
“Imagine you see a new bakery and you decide to go there. The path to the bakery is covered with fresh untrampled snow, which means walking there will be harder.”
“ But we can see the bakery and having this vision helps keep us on track. We think of this new place as we trudge through the fresh snow. And it gives us a reason to keep going.”
This vision is our destination. We have to know where we’re going or we we’ll just wander. Without the vision we’d get lost or worse yet, turn back.
“So what stops us from going back to our old habits? The truth is that it’s easier to go back. The snow is already trampled.”
But we can use tools to keep us going forward. These tools are the tools of habit creation. These tools make up the habit creating habit.
10 Tips to Create the One Habit to Rule Them All
(As Taught By Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)
1. Support – Tell someone that you’re going to do it.
Leo used the example of telling his editor and his readers he was going to finish his book at a certain time. The fact that he had made a commitment to others helped him stay focused.
2. Accountability Bet – For this Leo used the example of a bet he made with a friend who ran a tea company. If the friend failed to complete a task on time, he had to go to a teashop he didn’t respect.
Once there he had to drink the tea, wear a T-shirt with their logo, and have a video taken of him. In the video he’d be drinking the tea while wearing the shirt and saying how much he loved their tea.
The bet was fun and mostly inexpensive. But it was motivating because the pain of humiliation was worse that the joy of procrastination.
3. Intentions – Leo encourages us to ask, “What is my motivation?” When he sits to write something he thinks about the people he wants to help. Bringing this intention to mind motivates him to work even when he doesn’t feel like it.
4. Rewards – Leo said, “It’s important to have something pleasurable with each step you take.” This reward could be the joy of creating or the joy of reporting to an accountability group. No matter what, it’s about using the carrot and not just the stick to keep you going.
5. Setting – Having a good working environment is an essential element to creating. Of course having a visually pleasing working environment is the first step. But Leo also includes good music and gratitude as keys to creating a positive setting for creation.
6. Accountability Groups – Part of the Sea Change program is taking part in accountability groups. But you don’t have to be a member of Sea Change to start your own. These groups can be formed by anyone that wants support in changing their lives.
According to Leo the keys to a successful accountability group are
1. Meet on a regular basis.
2. Make commitments to each other.
3. Live up to these commitments.
4. Have some kind of consequence for not meeting commitments.
5. Report your progress.
How to stop getting off track:
Tips 7 – 10 are all about how to stop the things that get you off track. And they all involve “lowering the barriers to creation.”
7. Stop saying, “I need everything to be perfect.”
The perfect creative environment doesn’t exist. So instead of making it a complex process, Leo tells us to, “make it simple, close your programs, open a text doc, and get to work.”
8. Stop thinking, “I need to create the perfect…”
Instead, Leo recommends we say, “I just need to get this done,” and go for it. “Start with a crappy first draft and send it out to people you trust.” Getting started on creating a new habit is more important than doing it perfectly or even well.
9. Stop keeping it to yourself.
You should always have someone to send your work to. Leo notes that having an audience, even if it’s a small one, gives us a purpose when we create. It also keeps us honest about what we are creating.
10. Frictionless blogging
One practice Leo does is something he calls ‘Frictionless blogging”
He says, “I just write a post and then post it immediately.” Just to get the post out there. It removes all the barriers and then I am motivated to quickly edit it.
This practice can work with whatever we are working on. Just create and then disseminate. Not only will it hone your mind while you create, but it will keep you from being caught in endless editing or futzing about.
Though many of these tips apply to creation or writing, I found they could be applied to any aspect of creating new habits in my life. Whether is comes to exercise or eating better using these tools will help you create new grooves.
It’s through this process that we learn the habit creating habit and become the masters of the one habit to rule them all.