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I am not a very disciplined person. I struggle to form good, productive habits and stick to them. My early morning and study routines are particularly bad. I know what I want to do. I want to wake up early, and do my devotions, my exercise, breakfast and chores and all be done in two hours ready to start studying. If I do this, I put the rest of my day into a “heads-down get things done” mood. I’d be set up for the rest of the day.

Stephen R. Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” has been a great read for me. So far I’ve found lots of insights into, well, being more effective. How he broke down a habit into three areas has been especially enlightening for me.

Knowledge: To form and maintain a habit you need to know what you want to achieve. I know that I want to wake up at 5:00, have my devotions, exercise, shower, eat and then do my jobs. I know that I will need to stop reading over breakfast because that slows me and distracts me from what is important. I know that I will need to go to bed early if I am to wake up early.

Skill: There is no point knowing what you need to do if you are not capable of it. Particularly if I go to bed early, I am capable of actually getting myself out of bed early in the morning. That’s a skill (of sorts). I know that I am capable of organising my night-time activities to allow myself to go to bed early. That’s not so much a question of “skill” as “making it possible”. So I guess you could call this category “capability” or “ability” as much as anything.

Desire: For my early morning routine, this is the hard one. You can know what you want to, and be able to do it, but unless you want to do it more than you want to do anything else, you’re not going to do it. It’s not just a case of wanting to change. I want to start my days with a bang. It’s just that often, I want to read the news even more! The desire to read is stronger than the desire to stay focused.

You have a habit when you know what you want to do, are able to do and want to do it, that is, when you have knowledge, skill and desire combined.

I really like this definition of a habit because it breaks it down. I started this post saying “I struggle to develop good early morning habits”. Now I know why I struggle.

It could be because I don’t know the best way to go about this morning routine (I really should exercise before I eat because running on a glutted stomach is not nice).

could be because I don’t have the skills or the capacity (I’m staying up too late watching TV shows like The Mentalist).

In reality, I know it’s because I don’t desire it strongly enough. Reading is more attractive than starting my day on target.

Now I know what I need to change, I can start developing strategies to change it. Unfortunately, I suspect desires are the hardest parts of a bad habit to change.