Building Habits

When I was in the 9th grade, I built a habit that inadvertently helped me crack the Civil Services interview almost a decade later.

In those days, I started reading newspapers religiously because I loved following the international stories (e.g., the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka). Every day, when I would come home on a short lunch break, the first thing I would do is grab the ‘Times of India’ copy.

And I was not doing this because it was a ‘good habit’ to build but I truly enjoyed it – hence the habit stuck.

Many years later, quite unexpectedly, I decided to write the Civil Services exam and when the time for the interview came, I had to mention a hobby.

So I wrote “International relations”, which intrigued my interviewers so much that 90% of the questions were on that topic. Since I was an engineer and not expected to know much about the world affairs, they probably thought I was bluffing.

However, since I had been following the news for nearly a decade, I easily aced the interview.

But even more importantly, it also taught me a lesson in building habits.

When we want to build good habits, we often struggle because we don’t derive any pleasure from the activity itself. But all the habits I have built and sustained give me pleasure.

For sure, they may not be pleasurable on day one but at some point, the pleasure starts kicking in. After the first day at the gym, I was sore all over. But after a few months, it started feeling like a drug.

Any habit can give you pleasure and enjoyment – discover it if you want to sustain that habit. Once you find it, even the hardest-looking habits become effortless.

That is why people run marathons or climb mountains – not because it is good for them but because they have found that joy.

– Rajan

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