I started cycling at the age of 50 . It was on my bucket list of things to do . It was not about getting fit or any of those reasons, it was just about reliving my childhood memories of cycling.
I remember the fun I had purchasing all the accessories and cycling gear. I started cycling a few kilometres on weekends.
I tied in another habit , going to Starbucks after cycling. Now that was the reward . So I would get dressed up every morning , start to cycle and feel the anticipation of being at Starbucks to have my favourite coffee.
Then I challenged myself with a tougher habit , to do long distance cycling starting with 25 km. The cycle I had was basic and would not help so I invested in a good cycle. And I started doing long distance cycling.
Now I was having fun , I loved the wind on my face , the feeling of freedom, the me time and to end the experience was a visit to Starbucks.
Today in the morning as winter has set in Mumbai ,it was chilly , tucked away under the blankets , I felt the desire to sleep a bit longer . But instead I just pulled myself up , put on the cycling dress and helmet and I got on my cycle.
The most important secret I understood of sustaining my cycling journey has not been MOTIVATION but SHOWING UP .
It is important to Show up , if I don’t show up I cannot begin. For me that is as simple as putting my cycling dress on . I have to wear my cycling clothes and the helmet and it pushes me to do the next thing , get on the cycle.
Once I am on my cycle, I have to cycle and then the next thing comes up , getting to Starbucks. That’s my reward .
Showing up and Reward are two things that keep me going and have helped me build my cycling habit .
And showing up is not about motivation , it’s about making a simple obvious process. I keep my cycling dress ready so I find it easily as I get up .
As I look at my another habit of learning guitar , I have just not progressed. I invested in a good guitar with the intention of learning to sing along with the guitar, but it’s not happened.
I realised I have put away my guitar in the closet and there is no reward that I have associated with the action .
Also my expectations are big , I want to start singing and play the guitar along and that looks difficult . Learning the chords and the strumming looks like a big effort.
For cycling I just begin with the simple idea of getting to Starbucks which is 5 kms away from my home , in the process many days I do 15 kms . So action step is simple.
The learning from my cycling habit which I have sustained is
1. For any new habit to form make it easy to take the first step . Putting on my cycling dress and helmet in the morning is the first step , I keep all cycling accessories within reach and visible.
2. Make a easy to take daily action . If you are trying to form the habit of reading books you can start with subscription to blinks which condenses books into short reads and then read one blink a day . For me it is just cycle 5 kms to get to Starbucks. ( and I also subscribe to blinks) .
3. Reward . For me Starbucks coffee is a reward ( I am trying to replace this )
4. Identity. I post pictures of my cycling journeys of social media and this has helped me build an identity as a cyclist. Don’t underestimate the power of identity for habit to become long term way of life.
I was not even aware of how I shifted my identity as a cyclist till I read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I highly recommend reading this book .
As James says in this book , It is not about just Inspiration it is also about a system you put in place to make it happen.
It is not just about having passion but taking small action steps every day to live your passion . It is not the Destination but the journey that matters .
Like it is for me writing this blog now .