In baseball, the first batter is called the leadoff hitter. The leadoff hitter is almost never the team’s biggest hitter. (Still, he is expected to have a decent batting average.) What’s required of the leadoff hitter is that he should be a fast runner. His speed allows him to get to bases fast and even steal bases. The leadoff hitter is expected to set the tone for other batters.
When it comes to forming habits, it is also important to establish a lead habit (also called an anchor habit). While it is never the most difficult or significant among all the habits you wish to develop, it sets the tone for all your other habits.
For example, if you wish to develop the habit of taking a walk every morning, you can establish putting on your shoes as your lead habit. It’s not as difficult as taking the actual walk itself, but once you put on your shoes, you create momentum. And since it requires more effort to take them off, you would rather take a walk than undo what you have already done.
Or take the ritual of Twyla Tharp for instance. Twyla is a renowned dancer who has choreographed dances for operas, ballets, films, television, and even Broadway. In her book, The Creative Habit, Twyla shares:
“I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.”
Establishing a lead habit makes it easier for us to develop more difficult habits. And because it requires more effort to undo what we have already done, there’s often no turning back.
Also, when we celebrate our small wins such as putting on our shoes, we associate more feelings of happiness and accomplishment with the habits we wish to develop. By celebrating our small wins, we condition our mind that developing new habits is a rewarding undertaking.
P.S. I am the first reader of my blog posts. I wrote this because I am once again struggling with my habits. But starting today, I’m committing to developing the habit of waking up early (again). And my lead habit is going to Mass every day at 6AM. How about you? What habit do you wish to develop? What’s your lead or anchor habit? Let’s do this together.
Hat tip: James Clear