With habits, and happiness, and everything else, I've always been attracted to organizing information according to numbered lists - this process helps me think clearly and remember better.
Slight tangent: I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism: the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Auspicious Symbols. It was surprising to me that Buddhism, with its emphasis on gateless gates and transcending the bounds of rational thinking, has so many of these numbered lists. I love them, but still, it seems incongruous. There's a koan to be written about it, that's for sure. Like, "Use numbers to throw away enumeration."
Here are some numbered lists that are useful for habit-formation - presented, of course, in a numbered list:
When it comes to making a habits, it's crucial to know how you tend to respond to expectations: both outer expectations (a deadline, a "request" from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year's resolution).
Certain habits seem to be particularly important; they serve as the Foundation for other habits. I always remind myself, "First things first." That is, pay attention to the obvious before worrying about more subtle concerns.
Foundation habits keep us from getting too physically taxed or mentally frazzled, and then, because we have more energy and self-control, we follow our healthy habits more easily.
From my observation, the four Foundation habits are:
When I think about the habits that I wanted to cultivate, or talk to people about their happiness challenges, it seems as though just about every habit that people seek to make or break falls into the "Big Five":
1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)
2. Exercise regularly
3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, make purchases that contribute to happiness or habits, stay current with expense reports)
4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (pursue a hobby instead of cruising the internet, enjoy the moment, stop checking email, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car, take time for myself)
5. Stop procrastinating, accomplish more (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, learn a language, maintain a blog, keep a gratitude journal)
6. Simplify, clear, clean, and organize (make the bed every day, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle, give away unused clothing)
7. Engage more deeply-with other people, with God, with yourself, with the world (call family members, read the Bible every day, volunteer, spend time with friends, observe the Sabbath, spend time alone in nature)
When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps reject them.
1. False choice loophole – "I can't do this, because I'm so busy doing that" –this is one I often use, myself