My father asked my 9-year-old nephew, Ayush: “When do you cut your nails?”

“When I notice they have grown long.” – replied Ayush.

“No. You should cut them on a given day/time every week. Then it becomes a habit.”- said my dad.
This was one of the anecdotes that remained with Ayush even after eight years when he shared his note for my Dad’s biography. It’s a simple but very, very powerful way to build habits. I am taking the liberty to extend the same and help you understand how.

When do you meditate?

Wrong: -When I am under stress.

Right: – Meditate at a fixed time every day. Come rain or shine. That’s when you have to meditate. Then it becomes a habit. If you want to meditate more often, please do, but that one slot you cannot miss. 

When do you donate to charity?

Wrong: When I encounter a crisis, like the Turkey quake, I donate a random amount based on the gravity of the situation.

Right: I donate a specific monthly amount from my salary to a charity of my choice. Auto debited. Then it becomes a habit. That goes before I use it for any of my expenses. Over and above that, it all depends on the situation and my bank balance. 

When do you eat food?

Wrong: When I feel hungry.

Right: Have a fixed time in the day for all three major meals. Have a rough portion, the bare minimum you plan to consume as a base. Then it becomes a habit. Of course, you can change the quantity, add meals, etc. But once you are eating three meals regularly, you are getting your digestive system to get used to the routine, leading to healthy gut.

When do you call your parents?

Wrong: I am very busy during the weekdays; I am literally running from pillar to post, managing my home and work. So whenever I get some free time, I call them.

Right: Have a fixed time in the day (or at least a few times in the week) when you know you will be at home or in a comfortable, relaxed place, and so would your parents. Make those the ‘golden hours’ for them to speak to you. Preferably video call.  Then it becomes a habit. Of course, you are free to call, message and meet them in person as many times as you can beyond this, but these slots are ‘touch me not’.

When do you go for a run?

Wrong: The day I get up early and the weather is good, I go for a run.

Right: Have set days in the week and time on those days; you run for a certain distance. Come rain or shine, you just run. Then it becomes a habit. This will not make you a marathoner like me. But I will tell you, in very clear terms, whether you would like to become one. And you will find your way to do longer runs, more frequently, and who knows, win some really prestigious medals at some point.

I find it amusing and frustrating when people say; I wish I could read, run or write like you. And then I ask them what is stopping them; they have their usual list of excuses, back-to-back calls, meetings, work, health issues, etc. I ask them, do you ever forget to brush your teeth in the morning? They say no. I say, then how do you forget to read? The day you ascribe reading the same importance as brushing your teeth, you will not miss a day of reading for the rest of your life!!!

I encourage the readers to add their own ideas on what could be added to this list. Let’s make it a comprehensive one. So that never again in future, anyone has any excuse for not being able to cultivate a habit for anything !!!