Habits: willpower or routine?

Several times a day I used to do what my husband called my “Where’s-my-keys dance”. I would flap my arms, hop around the house, look high and low, shrieking, “I can’t find my keys? Has anyone seen my keys?”

The cause of this was my inability to remember where I left my keys. It was always an emergency; I had to be out of the house and off to work; I was late and getting later. Where the bloody hell had I put my keys???

Somewhat embarrassingly, I did the same dance at work. Well, I wasn’t actually embarrassed. Except one time, when a work colleague spent an hour helping me look for them, even looking under my car where I thought I may have dropped them. Failing to find them, he was going to drive me home. As we were walking out the room, what should fall from my bag but my keys. I HAD looked in my bag. Several times. Honestly.

This dance went on through several places of work. People got used to me looking for my keys. And stopped helping me.

And at home my family got annoyed or they laughed.

Then one day I bought a lovely hook. I put it on the wall at the end of my hallway just before where I dropped my bag at the end of the day.


I have used this hook every day, bar a few occasions when I have generally altered my routine. For example if I had to hide packages I had just purchased for presents.

So how did I adopt this new habit after years of the ingrained poor habit of putting my keys anywhere, somewhere, nowhere?

Well, firstly, I had clarity. I knew what my goal was: to place my keys on a hook after every time I used them.

Second, I had a reason. I needed to be able to find my keys and not be stressed or an object of ridicule.

Third, I only had one habit I wanted to change. Trying to do more than one habit steps you up to fail at all (which makes me question how I am going to achieve my current goals.) And I didn’t change focus when I had success or little set-backs.

Forth, I made conscious decision to act in the first few weeks. I knew it was going to be hard to break a long time habit, one also engrained due to laziness. So I thought about it every time I came home, “Put the keys on the hook.”

Fifth, I had a reward. Besides knowing where my keys where and being able to leave the house with no fuss, I had the reward of the pretty hook, which gave me joy every time I looked at it

Finally, I continued until the act became a part of my routine. When you act out of routine, you do something without having to think and it feels wrong when you don’t do it.

So there was an element of willpower at the start of changing my habit but it became routine.

Which brings me to my major goal of the new healthier me: not falling asleep on the lounge and getting to bed by 11pm.

How can I succeed?

I need to implement the above steps but, as this is a more difficult habit to put into place, I also need to do the following:

  • 1. Write the goal down.

Done. On my blog.

  • 2. Identify and remove obstacles.

I have taken the blankets and pillow off my lounge as having these to hand makes it easier to get comfy and fall asleep on the lounge. Another obstacle which will cause me to fail is getting settled on the lounge and then being too tired to get up and tidy the kitchen so I think a little rest first might help. As if? I will just fall asleep, wake after an hour or three, get up to tidy the kitchen and then be unable to sleep. So kitchen must be done before settling on the lounge.

There are other steps that can help instigating a new habit: keeping track of your actions in writing (which I am doing using my kikki k pad) and knowing the triggers. My triggers are getting cosy on the lounge. As soon as I am cosy, I fall asleep. So sad. I do so love being cosy on the lounge. But I love having better sleep more.

Watch out world. A new habit is only 21 or 30 or 60 days away. Keep at it!

What’s your new habit? And how are you using these steps to achieve success?


3 thoughts on “Habits: willpower or routine?

  1. Pingback: Gorgeous feet « lucinda sans

  2. Pingback: Bedtime ritual | lucinda sans

  3. Pingback: Coping skills | lucinda sans

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