You Won’t Really Develop a Habit Until You Break Your Streak.

Maintaining the habit every day is a classic trick. Whether you keep track of this with a row of red crosses on your calendar, or let the app give you icons for consistency, the streak can help you build a habit. But this is only the first step. You will find out who you really are after you end your streak.

Stripes are great for beginners

As we wrote back in 2007 , “Consistent daily action … leads to outstanding results.” This is true. If you do something from time to time, forcing yourself to do it every day, you will change your life. If you write every day, you’ll learn how to prioritize your writing and emerge, whether you’re having a good day or not . By following a training program every day, even the simplest one, you will improve your fitness and develop a consistency that will allow you to strive for bigger and bigger goals.

To learn more about habits, watch the video below:

The behavior streak can also push yourself to do things that you would normally find overwhelming. For example, this summer I had good results on the New York Times crossword app. You get a little golden calendar icon every time you solve a puzzle on the day it is published, but only if you do it without using any built-in cheats. (For example, you can click a button to see if any of your entries are incorrect.) Otherwise, the icon will be blue. The app only counts the puzzle if you have earned a gold badge.

NYT crosswords are easy on Mondays, but get harder as the week goes on. I usually only solved the puzzles on the first three days of the week, but once I figured out how the stripes worked, I set myself the task of seeing how many gold badges I could get. It turned out that Thursdays were not as difficult as I had feared; they tend to use clever tricks with them, and through this experiment I learned that I like them the most. I also found that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were only hard, not impossible. I managed to get the whole of July in gold and this way I learned more about myself and NYT crosswords.

But the lane is just your training wheels. Basically, it doesn’t matter if you actually write, run, or solve the crossword puzzle every day. In five years, you will not look back with regret on the day you missed. In fact, five years from now, you might hope to have a healthier relationship with your new habit of allowing you to take your days off when needed.

So your habit should survive the streak.

What happens if you interrupt your streak?

I already wrote about one band that I broke: “closing the rings” on the Apple Watch. I had to train every day to keep up with my streak, but that meant I didn’t have days off. Physically I was fine – I chose light yoga in those days so I wouldn’t overtrain or something – but in the end I felt like I needed to cheat to keep up. It was a relief to smash him.

The crosswords went a little differently. One Saturday I was sitting on the porch and doing a difficult crossword puzzle. He did not have such cunning tricks as Thursday or Sunday. It wasn’t fun. It was just boring. I suddenly realized: why am I spending Saturday like this? I could do something else .

The streak has served its purpose and I have outgrown it. Solving crosswords on time and not checking my work was fun, but it’s not the structure I need for the rest of my life. It’s nice to be able to solve a puzzle if I don’t feel it, just like it’s good to throw a book that doesn’t do it for you, and it’s okay to take a break from exercise from time to time.

Who are you without your streak?

In many epic stories, there is a moment when the hero loses his mentor, but still has to go on. Imagine Obi-Wan dying, or that unexplained Elsa thing in Frozen II. This is an image because we know that the hero has to find his own path if he is going to really succeed in his quest.

Here’s what happens after you break the streak. You can try to restore it, and some people find it meaningful, but to me it’s like digging up your dead mentor, believing that you can learn something from their corpse.

You’re on your own now. What kind of crosswords do you want to solve? How many training days are optimal for your goals? Does this writing habit work at all, or have you found that you hate writing and prefer doing something else with your time?

Breaking your streak is a rite of passage that links the easy accomplishments of the early days with the experience behind you. By the time you interrupt your monthly streak – by accident or on purpose – you will no longer need it. You are on your own, free, and a bright future awaits you.

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