Types of Habits And Why You Need To Know About Them

Let’s be honest – embedding good daily habits into your life is hard.

Even brushing your teeth in the morning often feels like rolling a boulder uphill. And that’s before the day unfolds itself. Before life starts to demand from you to constantly decide between something that will make you feel good today vs something that will make your life amazing a year (or years) from now.

Eighteen years ago. When I was 16 – I think. Though I was perfectly aware that smoking is the type of routine that falls into the bad habits bucket. (My parents pretty regularly vocally expressed their resentment towards the toxic thin roll of shredded tobacco wrapped in a mini paper.)

I, regardless of everything rational, started smoking.

The reason, looking backward. Was quite ordinary. I wanted to fit in. Since the cool kids inhaled smoke to attract attention. Pretend they are older. Look tough. I wanted, too, to get closer to this badass persona.

But it turns out that the act of holding a puff and voluntarily making your breath stick like a garbage bin doesn’t automatically make others respect you. You are the same loser. But 1) poorer – because you now spend your allowance on legal drugs – and 2) ridiculous-looking – teenagers holding a cigarette look weird.

Of course, I didn’t know this back then.

I wholeheartedly believed that I’m much better with a cigarette in my hand than without one.

Alas, this wasn’t true, and it took me a decade – 10 years! To realize this and change the bad habit with a good one. Completely purge this destructive behavior from my life.

If you are, too, in the ongoing battle to practice your self-created list of good habits. I’m pretty confident that many days, you end up feeling like you failed to do everything on your list. But the days when you succeed – when you do make it through your good habits catalog, do practice delayed gratification – aren’t really all that much better. The satisfaction is so fastly fleeting. With the arrival of the new day, your progress resets itself. The rock will roll back down the hill. And you’d have to start all over again.

That’s why it is so hard. It is so hard to resist the temptation offered by activities we define as bad habits. But it’s not impossible.

In this post, we’re discussing the different types of habits and why you need to know about them…

What Is The Meaning of a Habit?

The greatest feature of our ability to form habits is that we repeat certain actions without being fully aware of them.

It’s like you’re in some sort of zombie state (or the flow state).

You get up half-asleep, and you brush your teeth without even thinking about brushing your teeth. You do it because you’ve done it for years.

But as it often happens in life, our greatest advantages are our greatest disadvantages.

Meaning that the worst feature of our ability to create habits is that you repeat certain actions without being fully aware of them. In moments of boredom, you seemingly automatically reach for your phone. You unlock it. And you start wasting time on social media.

Why is that? Why habits are equally good as well as bad?

We can address these questions by looking into the nature of the frequently repeated activities. Understanding what are the core components. The main characteristics of a habit.

In short, habits are routine behaviors you are mad used to doing. And you are mad used to doing these things because repeated patterns are quite literally tattooed into your brain.

Since the brain is constantly bombarded with all sorts of sensory stimuli. To reduce energy consumption. It stacks certain behavior patterns into groups and it activates them when there is a cue.

After all, imagine having to actively think about everything involved in brushing your teeth…

“What I had to do again with my teeth? Oh, yeah. I had to clean them. But how? Hmm… Ah, yes. I have a toothbrush. But what should I do with it…”

It’s not optimal.

That’s why, when certain tasks get repeated over a long period of time. The brain assumes that they should be done until you are alive – or until you actively engage in the process of removing a certain habit out of your system.

Therefore, when your eyes fixate on something in your environment that is related to a habit. The brain simply sends signals to the body without troubling your working memory. This means that habitual behaviors often go unnoticed by your current conscious state.

Here are two examples:

types-of-habits-examples

Basically, you can “wake up” in the middle of the road heading towards your office on Saturday morning and wonder, “what the hell?” All of this, because you’re doing this daily routine, taking this route 5 days a week.

What Are Types of Habit?

The general categorization of the types of habits is pretty obvious – good and bad. But there’s more to it than you might think. We can branch habits further as morning and evening habits and from there to mental, physical, and emotional habits.

But at its core, the reason we need to learn about the different types of habits falls into this: performing a list of good habits and keeping your distance from the universally bad habits.

Why Being Aware of The Types of Habits Is Important?

A study in relation to habit formation revealed that approximately 43% of our daily actions are performed out of habit.1

Half of your day is basically you doing things because you’ve done them for years prior.

But is this the best way to live your life?

Of course not. The world is constantly evolving. If you don’t actualize your list of daily actions, you’ll soon become obsolete.

Consider the types of habits you hold as a software package. As the software on your devices gets frequently updated. You also need to revise the list of tasks you do daily and make corrections along the way.

To do this properly, we need to understand what are the different types of habits.

We’re doing this below:

What Are The Different Types of Habits?

After reading about this.2 Thinking about this. And writing a lot about our daily routines.3 I’ve distilled 3 main types of habits.

There are habits that hurt us – bad habits. Habits that help us – good habits. And there are habits that reinforce our desired identity – identity-based habits. The third kind can also be good and bad.

Bad Habits

The types of habits considered universally bad are well known: smoking, overspending, being glued to your phone for the majority of the day, and eating mainly fast food.

While these negative behavior patterns obviously lead to emotional, physical, or financial dip – or commonly all three together.

The important thing here is realizing why we do them.

Why do we perform bad habits?

The paradox with bad habits – the main reason we can’t divorce them. Is that bad habits make us feel good right now.

Imagine your typical day. For the most part, you should be doing things that will unlock potential rewards in the future.

  • You work, so you can receive money in a form of salary days from now.
  • You exercise, so you can have a better-looking body months from now.
  • You invest money, so you can have more money years from now.

Bad habits remove the gap between feeling good some time potentially in the future and feeling aroused at this very second.

Since we are programmed to want daily rewards – i.e., we are prone to immediate gratification. It’s almost impossible not to have a list of negative behavior patterns close by.

And while there are bad things that won’t have a lasting negative impact – moderate drinking, or checking your phone a couple of times (only) a day, for example. The worst trait about bad habits is that they blind us. They rewrite the narratives in our heads in a way so wicked that we no longer see the evil which we do.

Good Habits

Good habits are the things we do – or have to do – even when we don’t feel like doing them.

They cost more resources for the body – we spend more energy while we perform them. But they offer high returns – positive physical and emotional outcomes.

Eating a dish with mostly vegetables can’t out-taste a pizza. But as a rational person, you know that the former will have a huge positive impact on your body. Unlike the pizza, which tastes good, but it adds a mass to your body that gets hard to remove after that.

Also, reading a book is initially less exciting than watching a bunch of short videos online. But if you stick to the printed page, you’ll not only become calmer. Add points to your patience skill. But you will also significantly increase your capacity to think.

Identity-Based Habits

If we can return to my confession above – about me smoking because I wanted to fit in.

How do you think I categorized this habit? Good or bad?

Blissfully righteous.

That’s how.

Our habits play a vital role in our daily life. They are not just activities we perform compulsively – without thinking about them. We add them and hold them because they reinforce a certain image we want to project to the world.

You see, the reason I was smoking (and drinking). Was because these habits were like pieces of clothing I had put on to showcase a certain image.

“Look at me, I’m cool. Cool people smoke and drink. I smoke and drink. Therefore, I’m cool.”

That was my line of logic.

But the problem here is much deeper.

I did these things because I wanted primarily outside validation. I didn’t want to be the only one who thought I was cool. I wanted others to think the same.

The way I was able to break the unhealthy behavior patterns that were controlling my life wasn’t through reading complicated research papers. (While they did help eventually.) I focused inward. I started to practice internal validation.

I started asking myself questions like:

“Am I proud of my behavior? Do I approve of what I do?”

The answers weren’t satisfying. Thankfully, this didn’t lead to a mental collapse. It was the opposite. I was excited because It allowed me to make changes.

We all want to project a certain image. And this image is usually created to gain the approval of others.

However, this type of living keeps you away from what you want. What you want to be. It focuses you on what others think it’s cool. From there, you adjust yourself to fit this belief.

We can’t always get validation from others – nor we have to.

It’s more important to find out who we want to be based on our personal wants and needs. Once we know, the identity-based habits we’ll eventually adopt will reinforce this image.

What Habits You Should Add To Your Life?

Unless you’re crazy or something. You’ll at least pretend that you don’t want to smoke and drink all day. You’ll lean towards wanting to possess habits that are good for you. Habits that are positive for your body and mind.

How this can be done is not the scope of this article – you can find more resources on the subject here and here.

The thing I want to express here is that picking the types of habits to add to your life can be revealed by, instead of asking yourself this question:

“What habits do I want?”

Asking questions like:

“What type of person do I want to be recognized as?”

The first question leads to vague answers and to vague results.

Typically, a person will say: “I want to have habits like working out and being healthy…”

In the second example, your answer will lead to a deeper exploration of your conscious and unconscious desires. You’ll probably ask yourself a series of additional questions:

  • What type of person I am currently?
  • What type of person do I want to become?
  • What type of habits do I hold because of others?
  • What daily actions can help me get to where I want?
  • What habits will reinforce my desired identity?

The answers, hopefully, will reveal your deeper desires. What are your long-term goals? What are your ambitions?

Furthermore, they will help you see that having good habits and breaking bad ones is not an unwinnable battle.

It’s about focusing on the person you want to be and walking away from the person you don’t want to be.

Some Closing Thoughts

Understanding the types of habits will help you figure out whether you are guided and blinded by sinful activities.

Allow you to unchain yourself from the demands of others. Stop being guided by what others want from you. Start focusing on what you want for yourself.

The last practice is especially effective if you also analyze why you want it.

Do you want to visit the gym because you want to get strong? Or do you want to do it because you want others to see how strong you are?

There is a huge difference.

So the next time when you’re revising your types of habits. When you’re tracking your habits. Don’t just list what you do. But also think about why you do it.

Do yourself a favor:

Join The Study Newsletter: A laid back newsletter about very serious ideas from even more serious books – and not only. Great for lifelong learners, creators, & wanderers alike.


Footnotes:

  1. Wood, W., Quinn, J. M., & Kashy, D. A. (2002). Habits in everyday life: Thought, emotion, and action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. On the web: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.83.6.1281
  2. I’ve read the most popular books on habits all based on scientific research: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore; Atomic Habits by James Clear; The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
  3. Two of my recent articles on habits cover the main things about having good habits and breaking bad ones: How Many Days Does It Take to Form a Habit Is a Wrong Approach; How Many Days Does It Take To Break A Habit?
Share with others: