Habits are great for resolutions but suck for relationships

Habits are great for resolutions but suck for relationships

Habits are the shit. Habit formation is the silver bullet to hacking and honoring your New Year’s resolutions. The productivity porn stories will tell you to wake up earlier (but isn’t that just doing more work?) or to develop incredible stores of willpower or to delete social media apps. These are just band-aids. Habit formation gives a structural advantage.

Habits make certain behaviors effortless

Developing a new habit is hard, once you develop the ability to subconsciously internalize certain behaviors it becomes nearly effortless to sit for 40 minutes of meditation or drink 64 oz of water each day. (Please forgive my humblebrag.) Another cute quality of habits is that the negative consequence of not doing the habit is often better than the positive benefit of completion. For instance, I’m more likely to say “Damn, I didn’t workout today and feel like crap” versus “I feel awesome because I worked out.”

But being habitual, can be a double-edged sword. Take our typical greeting, “How are you?” How often are these words empty and internalized? Consider “How are you” in Arabic: “Kayf haal-ik” which translates into “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” While I probably won’t greet my homies this way, the fervor, curiosity, and intentionality behind this question inspires awe.

How are you vs. I love you

Now take the phrase “I love you.” Is it said out of habit? Are the words effortless and empty? Lisa gut checks me on this. She’ll quip “what is it you love about me?” Not because she wants the adulation. She wants to know that it’s an affirmation and not some throwaway Hallmark scrawl (“Uh. I think you’re beautiful.”)

The scared nature of rituals

The word ritual evokes a sense of ceremony and worship. It is intentional, dare I say sacred. What if we turned “I love you” from a habit, to a ritual. And in that moment, as the words are being uttered, NOTHING else mattered but the truest and most heartfelt appreciation of the phrase. One could call it worship. The morning and evening kiss to your kids – same thing. Is there anything more important at that specific moment?

Frank Ostaseski shows the standard we should aspire to in his book . In one of the book’s moving scenes, Frank asks a husband what he wanted to share with his wife stricken with cancer and in hospice care:

He didn’t hesitate for one moment. ‘I hope to love her with my whole heart,’ he said. ‘To love every part of her without reservation. To make sure she knows how blessed my life has been to be married to her.

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