The Power Of Habit

Sage ReddyHappiness, Health, Love, Wealth

“Here, lemme show you. Put your fingers here like this… and strum with your right hand,” he says. It’s summer of 2005 and he’s Tony, my new neighbor friend in Austin, Texas. Tony is a cop. Every evening he sits outside his apartment and picks on his guitar. I try my hand on his guitar only to experience deep frustration.

“Why would anyone anyone want to play this thing?” I shake my head and wonder in bafflement. It’s uncomfortable to hold; I don’t really care for how it sounds; and it’s excruciatingly difficult, if not impossible, to play. Tony goes on and on about major and minor chords, how you can play the same chord in multiple positions, bla bla bla, all of which go right over my head.

I confess, part of the reason for my “yuck” reaction is my bruised pride. As a percussion nut, I’ve been able to pick up many musical instruments and play them right off the bat without any formal musical training. Until now, that is. This darn guitar, this thing that everyone loves, has brought me to my knees. It’s humiliating.

And Then “Love” Happened

Now, six years later I can’t live without my guitar. Not a day goes by when I don’t sing and play my guitar. Now a pretty good singer-songwriter and guitarist, I love it so much, I’ll even say, “Who needs a girl when you have a guitar?” OK, that was a joke. And don’t let my wife read this. 🙂

So when it comes to the guitar, I’ve gone from “what’s this thing?!” to “I can’t do without this thing!”. Go figure!

But it happens all the time and it happens to a lot of people. Even so, what’s interesting is that I’ve built my guitar prowess on top of a very busy life: a life coach, an author, an entrepreneur, a husband, a blogger, a foodie, a gardener and a drummer. How can you find time for a guitar when your life’s so busy?

The answer, in one word, is… habit.

A half-an-hour-a-day habit.

Of course, I often play a lot more than that, but I have never required me to. I’m committed to half-an-hour a day and no more. Also, my focus is always on my song, not the guitar itself. So any given week, I’m working on a new song while firming up the song from last week. With this simple half-hour a day habit, I’ve built a vast portfolio of songs that number in several dozen, all original.

The guitar, as you may know, is extremely versatile. There’s no limit to what you can do with it. It can take several lifetimes to master just one of these styles. Then there’s singing, which is a world unto itself. As a child, when I sang with bellowing passion at friends’ birthday parties, my older sister would grow red in embarrassment. And that didn’t help.

So can one pick a guitar in their thirties, start singing and make a career out of it? Most people would say, NO. And they would be right. But fools go wherever their hearts takes them, right? My music has certainly paid me back monetarily, more than I ever invested in it. But who says playing music has to be about a musical career? Why can’t you make music because, well, it makes you happy?

And that’s why I do it. I am happiest when I’m singing and playing my guitar. Besides, the discipline that my guitar has wrought me has spilled over into my day job.

And Then It Died

But recently I’ve noticed something. I haven’t been playing my guitar and singing like I have for years now. Come to think of it, it’s been a whole month since I last played it. Why? What happened? It’s not because I lost interest; I simply haven’t had the time. Or so I’ve been telling myself.

Which is a lie.

Yes, I’ve been very short on time lately. But isn’t that always the case for any of us, especially entrepreneurs? Ok, I have a confession to make. Something happened several weeks ago which broke my half-hour-a-day-guitar-habit. It was a day when I was so absolutely overwhelmed with what was on my plate that I had to simply let go of a few of my daily habits. Like guitar and meditation and toning… and yes, even a shower.

That day, instead of reaching for the guitar like I usually do after lunch, I told myself I’d do it in the evening. Heck, why don’t I try playing it in the evenings? Evening came and I thought, “Nah! I should go back to playing after lunch as usual. I’ll just pick it up tomorrow.” Next day lunch came and I thought, “Nah! I’m busy again. But I’ll surely play in the evening today.”

As you may suspect, this nonsense has gone on for a month now.

If my guitar habit were my favorite garden tree, the tree has died. And we are doing a post-mortem analyss on it. Do you know how a habit is born, is sustained or withers and dies?

The Anatomy Of A Habit

It takes about 7 days to sow the seeds of a new habit, and another 7 days for it to sprout. Nurture this for 2 more weeks and it’ll grow into a plant and become well established in the soil of your mind. Years roll by and it grows up into a strong tree. Once your habit tree is established in the garden of your mind, it takes very little effort to keep it flowering and fruiting.

All you have to do it water it everyday and appreciate it. It’s so easy to sustain your habit, it’s child’s play.

But what if one day, for whatever reason, you fail to water your habit tree? No big deal. If this is because of dire circumstances, chances are you’ll get back to your habit. But if it’s because of laziness or “lack of time,” you’ve already started poisoning your tree, albeit slowly. Your habit tree will soon begin to wither and before long it’ll just go belly up and die.

It’s not as if your habit tree is unforgiving. It’s just that habits, like all life forms, do not suffer neglect lightly.

I’ve watched the birth, growth, and blossoming of several wonderful habit trees in my mind/body garden. I’ve mourned the loss of some of them. It’s not hard to resurrect a deeply-entrenched habit that has served you well. Only catch? You cannot put it off till the morrow. If you do, your habit will continue to stay dead.

So whether you want to start a new habit or resurrect an old one, the time is NOW.

Alright, ‘nough with the talking… ’cause my guitar beckons from across the room.

Here’s wishing you a lifetime of good habits!

Image Source: