Tragedy comes for us all.
A few years ago, my job got brutally eliminated. One day I came into the office. A dictator man who turned the company upside down said, “we’re going to have to let you go.”
My world suddenly didn’t make sense. No job equaled tragedy. The dreaded career gap became inevitable. The FBI recruiters always wanted to interrogate me to find out what happened. “Is it because of you?” It wasn’t. A 50% decline in profits right before I joined is bound to have after shocks. Nobody shows you the health of an employer before you join.
Times got tough. For a while I didn’t want to face the reality. When you’ve got hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn followers you’re supposed to be a career Superman or Wonder Woman. Not me. I fell from grace.
One thing saved my life: habits.
Habits act as a backstop when times get tough. They support you. They lift you back up. The problem is when tragedy strikes, you’ll want to give up your extremely valuable habits. It’s normal.
Emotion tells you “let go for a while”
In my 20s I found tragedy again. I left a business I loved. I gave up everything. The BMW, the clothes, the lifestyle, the wealthy friends, a new phone every year, a fishbowl corner office.
At the same time as being a business owner, I produced electronic music on the side. I was signed to two record labels. The emotion of my sudden shift in circumstances led to, “let’s take a break from music for a while.”
I stopped cold turkey. No more beats. No more synthesizers. No more recording studios. Just me and my dark thoughts. Things got pretty bad. The only escape I had from the darkness was music. Without music, things were even harder. I never did go back to making music every day. The habit died the day I committed to a long-term break.
Remember: “For a while” becomes forever with habits.
If short-term darkness finds you, there’s an incredible alternative.
Resize your habits
A tweet got me thinking. When things in your life become a short-term death spiral, the answer isn’t to give up your habits. Habits like journaling, exercise, reading, meditation, and clean eating support you through tough times. You’re smart and already knew that.
The trick I’ve found is to resize your habits to free up time and allow you the space to heal from whatever horrible event has transpired.
A few pages of a book is enough. 15 minutes of exercise is enough. One bite of a vegetable each day is enough. 5 minutes of meditation is enough. Heck, I did only 2 minutes of mediation per day when things were rough. Or even if you only walk for 2 minutes per day, you’ll still hold on to your exercise habit.
A habit is a reminder of the pre-apocalypse you. It’s a sign not everything is broken. It’s a tiny success you can build off later.
The underrated habit to keep that helps form new habits
Writer Nicolas Cole goes a step further. He believes a foundational habit is online writing. “Writing consistently leads to other habits being formed consistently.”
A tough time in life will result in new habits, eventually. The goal is to stay consistent with one or all of your habits. But if you had to choose one, Cole argues a writing habit is the best. Writing is how we think. A daily writing habit is a way to place our thoughts under a microscope.
What you write down will help decide what to do next after these bad days pass and the sun shines in your head again.
I didn’t write when I lost my music career. I did write when I lost my job. I wrote about the embarrassment and the fear. Many pieces of content from that time period went viral. Not because of me, but because people could relate to the feeling of rejection.
That’s the power of a writing habit. It allows you to tap into the collective consciousness and stitch up the deep wounds.
The ingredient needed to hold onto your habits for dear life
Fiona The Millennial Money Woman on Twitter provides the answer. “To change your habits, change your mindset.” This is common knowledge.
What’s missed is this: to hold onto habits a change in mindset is required, too. You have to program your mind to hold onto habits at all costs. You have to adopt the thinking “it’s okay to dial down habits, but let’s not cancel what will get us through this.”
Recent times may have become tough. That’s normal and it happens to everyone. Your only goal is to resize your habits to be small enough, that you can maintain them through the bad times, so they may help you return to the good times.
Habits are a survival mechanism. Two minutes of a habit is enough.