Investing in Better Habits

If you want to improve a habit or build a new one, it’s going to require some investment.

Obviously the simplest investments would be the basic tools and time. If you’re a beginner and want to try something out, this is a good place to start.

But self-taught knowledge rarely builds the bigger determination needed to do great at something. For that, you'll have to start investing in more things.

For example, I’ve been trying to stay in better shape the last few years. Investing some time led me to hiking on the weekends. It was great for basic fitness but I needed something more to help me do things like running or going to the gym on a regular basis.

For these, I had to invest in more things. I signed up with a personal trainer for a few months to help work out a good exercise program. I registered for running events, including a marathon, to give myself things to practice for and prepare for.

Compared to a year ago, when I'd exercise at most a few times a week on a good week, I’m doing much better. Each investment helped, especially investing some money in future events and using them as goals to work towards. Competition helps us improve our habits as we work towards excellence.

Obviously there are a lot more skills and habits than physical activity, though. For many creative habits, you can invest in computer programs, equipment, supplies, and tutorials, but it’s daunting to throw your art or writing into competitive things like contests, submission piles, or art shows. But if you're going to make a habit into something great, it’s a step you'll have to take (and one I still need to take in some areas).

When it comes to investments, there’s different levels. The basic level is what you need to practice the habit on a regular basis. Next comes investments that help you grow and learn: mentors, groups, etc. After that comes the investment in competing, large projects, or putting the results of your habit out there. And at the highest level, the focus to do whatever it takes to be the best.

Some of the higher levels or investment in habits might seem intimidating or difficult. Not every habit needs to be what we want to put all our heart and soul into. Instead, choose a level of investment in a habit that fits with your life and your goals for that habit.

Progress is never cheap, but if you invest wisely, you'll see it come quickly.