Building Habits – It’s all about pleasure

I have a question for you. We are just over a month into the New Year. How are your resolutions goals and habits going? Mine are going a lot better since I found what feels like a magical ingredient – pleasure.

Several weeks ago I was home in New Jersey and, as I start nearly every day, doing my morning pages (a habit created and endorsed by Julia Cameron in The Artists Way).  My mother commented “I can’t get over how disciplined you are. I could never do that.” I smiled and said nothing, but later something very important hit me.

How depressing are these quotes on discipline!

My mother is easily one of the most disciplined people I know. She’s kept her Weight Watchers food tracker daily for nearly 15 years (yes, really. She’s been a lifetime member for nearly 13 years). She also keeps a gratitude journal, never misses her weekly blog and rarely misses her daily walks. I consider myself one of the least disciplined people I know. And yet here I was doing something which she was amazed by and thought she couldn’t do.

Now, of course, the truth is she absolutely could do it. There is nothing difficult about morning pages. What she was really telling me and which I realized upon thinking about it was that she had no interest in doing this. If she were interested, I have no doubt she would be up every morning writing three pages in a journal or notebook.

So this made me stop and think – what is it about the habits that I do keep versus the ones I don’t. The difference is more than just interest – it’s pleasure. And what I find amazing is that I didn’t notice this before.

I have gone through phases over the years when I do morning pages, when I don’t, and when I do them only occasionally. And the difference it makes in my life is noticeable. My head is calmer, my writing days easier, my thoughts clearer when I do these. I get pleasure from these results, and usually from the writing itself. Now, yes, there are days when it feels like every word on the page is a chore and I would much rather be back in bed sleeping an extra half an hour. But overall, doing morning pages makes an incredibly positive difference in my life and in my work.

So what habits, I had to ask myself, did I supposedly want to have but wasn’t keeping? Was it because I didn’t really want the results of the habit or was I not really connecting the pleasure that each of these habits would bring to my life?

Yeah, you know the answer. And so did I.

Every habit I’ve been challenged keep from exercising to writing every day to planning in my bullet journal each night, the struggle is because I think of it as a task that I should be doing. And we all know what happens when you “should” on yourself.  The ones that come easily? Those have had pleasure connected with them for a while, whether I was aware of it or not (well, clearly not as I’m writing this because of my new awareness).

I looked up articles and posts on creating new habits.  They are simultaneously very encouraging and very discouraging. Do this, plan for that, have self control and willpower, break unwanted patterns, evaluate and adapt.  Be careful about slipping into old bad habits. Danger! Warning! You’re doing it wrong!

Yikes!  Sounds like boot camp. No wonder so many of us struggle with these methods. Where’s the fun? Where’s the joy?  In the result, hopefully – but what about in the creation process? How can we get to the result if route and routine is so miserable?

Pleasure has become my magic ingredient. You’d think someone who writes romance would have made this connection between habits and pleasure ages ago. And I think it’s likely someone tried to tell me about it or suggested it at one point in time, or many points in time, but apparently I wasn’t ready to hear or understand it. It is The Glinda Principle at play. “She had to learn it for herself,” Glinda says in response to why she didn’t tell Dorothy everything she needed to know from the beginning.

So, what has the result been?

It’s been rather wonderful. I look at my list of habits on a tracker in my bullet journal, and as I’m planning, I think about the pleasure each one of them can and will give me when I incorporate it into my day. I literally get to plan pleasure for myself. And pleasure is an incredibly wonderful habit to get into.

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