The primacy of habits

Before a skill becomes a habit, it is potential. A skill is a behavioral option. It's something we can do with intention in select situations.

Habit is a skill we engage automatically. It's not just potential; it is predictable. When young I learned  how to do cleansing breaths to get centered. It became a skill I engaged occasionally. It wasn't until later that I grew it from skill to habit. I would practice it every time I started a meeting. It went from potential to predictable, from skill to habit.

Most of us have many more skills than we have habits.  Much of what we do well and accomplish is supported by habits. 

Growing habits is different than growing skills. We have a skill as soon as we can intentionally do it once. The more complex it is, the more we can develop our mastery with it. We can get better at it. 

Where mastery is about quality of behavior, habit is about predictable frequency. We can grow situational, daily, weekly and longer frequency habits. 

Recent research indicates that depending on a host of factors, habits can develop anywhere from instantly to six weeks or more. These factors include the level of skill mastery we have, how habit oriented our life already is, whether we work on habit building alone or with others, whether we pair new habits with existing ones and how mindfully we live.

A new question for many of us is what kinds of habits we would like to grow at this point in our life. We can make a prioritized list of habit possibilities and work in order. These can be habits of daily tasks, conversational habits, habits of attention, commute habits, morning and evening habits and technology use habits. The only limit is our imagination.