I love reading self help books. Anything about personal growth or maximizing performance and I’m all over it. I like the idea that we always have the opportunity to make things better: for ourselves, for our friends and family, for our community, for the world.

Because of that I’m always down to try a new habit on for size. It’s fun to experiment with new things, and then if it works out well, I win because I’ve got something new in my life that is helpful. If it doesn’t work out well, I still win (I figure) because I tried something new.

I think that part of it is important: It’s something I’m trying on to see if it fits me.

This is the part that I think some folks lose track of. They try a new habit and it doesn’t work for whatever reason and instead of saying, well, that one didn’t work for me so I’m going to shelve it, they keep trying to make it fit while whacking themselves over the head with guilt because they obviously aren’t trying hard enough.

Seriously now? If you’re doing that to yourself, just stop.

While it’s possible if I think long enough about it I’ll come up with some habits that should be universal, for the most part I’m pretty confident that not every habit fits everyone, that not every habit is good for everyone, that not everyone needs to approach things in the same way as everyone else. and that there are times in our lives when even good healthy habits need to be jettisoned for a while.

Let’s take one example: Making your bed in the morning.

Plenty of self help folks will tell you that making your bed in the morning is a good way to start the day. You get to accomplish something, you create a tidy space in at least that one place in your home that feels restful, and it builds your habit-making muscles. When you do this, you’re more likely to meet the day in a positive frame of mind, ready to get stuff done. And if you don’t get stuff done, at least you succeeded at that one thing.

That all sounds reasonable to me. And I DO make my bed in the morning.

I’ve also had times in my life when I didn’t make my bed in the morning and I feel fine about that. Because here are some other things that are reasonable:

By not making your bed, you save time to do something that might be more important to you. That something might even be sleeping in a little longer to get your rest. When you see your unmade bed during the day, it can feel comforting and warm, like a peaceful friendly space that’s waiting for you to come back to it at the end of the day. When you don’t make your bed, you allow the bedding to breathe, possibly decreasing allergens like dust mites.

What’s the right thing to do? I don’t know. What do you think? What works for you, right now, in your current life? Can you approach these ideas with curiosity, trying things on for yourself, and then objectively looking at the results. At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you made your bed or not. It’s about which of those choices objectively made things better for you in your current circumstances.

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