If it feels right, it's a habit

If it feels right, that means it’s your habit.  And that’s all it means.

This is more important and pervasive than I can possibly communicate.  It comes up everywhere.

It explains why some people get so into working out even though it’s so hard.  Once I’ve exhausted myself in the same way enough times, I don’t feel right unless I do it again.  Because it’s my habit.  Habits feel right.

It explains how some (not all) people get so overweight, even though they hate it. They’ve practiced doing it, and unpleasant as it is, things just wouldn’t feel right any other way.

It also explains how some musicians can keep up six-hour-per-day practice schedules. No matter how grueling it gets, if I’ve done it enough, I won’t feel right unless I continue to do it. Sure, it’s exhausting as hell, but it feels right.

Most of us are wrong about this.  We think that if something feels right, it is right.  This is completely, totally, absolutely, positively wrong.  It’s simply not true.  Few misunderstanding cripple skill development more than this one.  Anything that feels right is a habit.  It might be good for you, it might be bad for you, but once you’ve done it enough, it feels right to do it again.

I’m going to suggest a radical theory that I’m not even sure I believe.  But I want you to play with the idea just the same.  Here’s the bogus theory: habits are not hard to break.  At all.  We just use the wrong measuring stick.

If I have a bad habit and I want to break it, there’s a bunch of things I might do, depending on what it is.  But the main way that I know when I’ve succeeded is when it feels right--regardless of what it is.  Think about it--for any habit, even ones that have nothing to do with each other and require totally different methods to solve, I’m using the same measuring stick.  “Does it feel right?”, and if it does, I think I’ve succeeded. With this setup, the more I “succeed” at breaking my habit, the more I reinforce it. Oops.  

I don't think any of us do this consciously, but I absolutely think we do it.  So are any of us even qualified to know if breaking a habit is hard?

It’s worth mentioning that improvement is a kind of change.  And change means doing things differently than I normally do.  So if I’m improving, will it feel right or wrong?  

What’s going to happen if I try to improve, and then judge my success by how it feels?

Your feelings are a compass, that, instead of pointing towards magnetic north, points towards your house.  If, like most of us, I think it points north and start navigating, I’m going to get lost and wonder what the hell went wrong.  All I really need to do is understand the information the compass is giving me.

The more right it feels, the closer it is to what I normally do.  Feeling right is not a sign of correctness, goodness, badness, or anything else.  Just frequency.