Walking is my daily habit. Except when it’s not. When I travel I often have to tailor my schedule to the hotel’s breakfast time, a cab’s appearance, and the time a client wants me in the classroom. If the hotel doesn’t have an exercise room, I may not walk. Because I fly out the last day of class, I often have a long and strenuous day before I get home, often around midnight. This week, adjusting for time zones, I put in a 20-hour day. Last week, I put in two of those.
The morning after a 20-hour day, I don’t walk. The day after that, I’m forming a habit. It doesn’t matter if I’ve walked
almost every day for the last 30 years (several years ago, I calculated I’ve walked once around the world); every day is a choice. If I don’t walk, I don’t continue a habit, I build a new one of not walking. Habits come in pairs: doing something and not doing something. One habit is as easy to build as the other.
The same is true of writing, eating well, doing creative work, or being kind. We build habits by the actions we choose. It’s rarely a case of “tomorrow I’ll get back to it.” When that seems hard, we choose the easier habit and build it instead.
I’d always thought of a habit as something I owned, had mastered, maybe perfected. But a habit is fragile. It is a choice to make every day.
—Quinn McDonald is still trying to build a daily habit of walking.