top of page

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Curious Habit

Aren’t habits a funny thing? For this article I needed to turn on my curiosity and channel Sherlock Holmes to solve the Case of the Curious Habit.

You can read all of our blogs on the topic of Habits here

As I was thinking and writing about the topic of habits for the theme of the month I started to notice that I had more habits than I consciously realised! If I am the sum of my habits then I think I may be a very complicated sum!!!

It’s an interesting thing that almost every behaviour we have is actually a habit, an automatic response to a problem that we solved some time in the past and is now almost totally unconscious.

So, I decided to be really conscious of my habits and made it my job for a day. Yes! for a whole day I made myself very conscious of what I was doing and noticing what was going on.

To help focus on the process I created four simple questions to help me be the Sherlock Holmes of my habits – a curious detective in a quest to understand the foundation of my responses and behaviours. My questions are:

I can honestly say that my intention to do this all day almost fell at the first hurdle – there is a reason why we have unconscious habits and that is for speed and efficiency! Having to think about what I was doing all of the time made it almost impossible to get anything done. I only managed to examine one habit, but I am now targeting my habits one at a time.

So, here is a snapshot of what happened and how it was still a useful exercise.

With my curiosity hat firmly on I started with getting up in the morning, after all, it is the first thing I do and I was kind of aware that it wasn’t the most efficient habit. Time to explore.

Question 1. What am I doing?

Well, I woke up to an early alarm only to switch it off straight away. I then turned on the radio, I prefer radio 4 and let it play on in the background for the next 45 minutes, drifting in and out of sleep under a warm duvet until it was the very last moment that I could get out of bed and still be ready in time for the day.

I had lots of thoughts and actions during that 45 minutes about how I could just stay there in bed. This included going through a repetitive process of sticking my leg outside and testing if I was ready to move the rest of me. I also kept having a half sleepy worry that I would not get up in time so I kept looking at the clock and re-assuring myself that I still had time to lay in bed.

I actually got out of bed at the latest possible moment that meant I could that still have enough time to be ready for the day – on this occasion I sacrificed washing my hair in the shower to spend an extra 5 minutes under the duvet.

By the end of all of this I found myself thinking ‘why didn’t you get up when the alarm went off? You were awake and could have washed your hair!!’

Ok, so that was what I was doing – Detective hat on again...

Question 2, Why was I doing it?

It's a curious thing that for people in general, all behaviour has a benefit, so even though I am waking up earlier than I need and going through this complicated ritual every morning before actually getting out of bed, there has to be a good reason why. What can this possibly be giving me??? Am I crazy???

After some thought and several cups of tea it dawned on me. I like to rise slowly and not start getting ready for the day until I have woken properly. No talking, no showering or dressing, not yet – just a cup of tea please… so this waking ritual method gives me that.

It is something left over from my days of getting up very early (5am) to take my husband to work on his morning shift days. I would drop him off and then go onto the office. I was always the first there and alone until everyone else started to turn up around 8 am, it had some benefits (uninterrupted productivity) but quite lonely. On the days he was not on morning shift I would still wake up but lay in bed bathing in the satisfaction of not having to get up until later. It was such a reward to just lay there knowing it was later than 5am.

If you have read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he says that one of the elements that makes a habit is reward when they have been completed. Check out our blog about the four elements of habits here.

So, I know what I am doing to play out the habit and I have a good idea why I have the habit -

Sherlock Holmes Deerstalker deployed for the next question...

Question 3 – Is this useful?

Well, yes, it does mean I can rise slowly and pander to my inner sloth.... but do I have to make it so complicated? Probably no. In fact definitely no.

My husband retired two years ago so this pattern is no longer needed. I am also self employed now and when I get up is dictated by my own diary and commitments.

Simple. It actually turns out that I can now get up at any time I like! There is no need for this complicated ritual that keeps me in bed struggling to work out when is the best time.

I do still have to be ready for the day - but when is entirely in my own hands.

I needs to make a simpler ritual....

Question 4 - What could I do differently?

I have decided to try setting the alarm to a bit later, getting up and making a cup of tea, sitting in the living room for 15 minutes with my brew and then getting into the shower.

This gives me the benefit of a slow rise, the time to sit quietly with a cup of tea, no half sleepy thoughts of when to get up or worry of oversleeping, just a gentle move into the day. Remember, I wanted a less complicated ritual and this is just that and equally as satisfying..

For change to work it needs to acknowledge the benefits that the behaviour gave you and incorporate them into the new behaviour.

So far, it’s working because what I really am enjoying is being awake with a cup of tea.

I have made the new habit attractive (which is another of the four elements of habits) and by getting out of the bed I have made the old habit difficult.

Fancy playing detective on your habits?

Get curious, put on your detective hat and dive into your habits today!

And if you would benefit from a coach walking beside you as you explore, then we are here and ready to join you on your journey - we will even wear a detective hat with you!

So, lets analyse the Ikigai diagram and break it down.

Looking at the Ikigai diagram there are four circles overlapping each other which intersect at a number of points.

The four circles relate to the four themes - What you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

This short video helps to explain the process so feel free to watch it now or after you have read the article

Step 1

The first step to using the Ikigai diagram as a template, and to help find your Ikigai, is to list all of the things that relate to each of the 4 points – asking yourself the questions of ‘What am I good at?’ ‘What do I love?’ ‘What does the world need?’ and ‘What can I get paid for?’

'What am I good at?’

This are not just skills but also behaviours. You could be really good at knitting, listening, growing plants, being calm – Think in this way - What have you never gotten bored of? That you get drawn back to time and again. What gets you in flow that you may forget to eat or drink? list all of them

'What do I love?’

This list is all about what you really enjoy - it could be singing, playing video games, travelling, cooking, meeting people – Think in this way - What skills have you spent time practicing, what do people ask you to help with and is there anything you want to gain as a skill? list them all

‘What can I be paid for?’

This is where you will list the possible types of work that you could be paid for if you already have or were to have the skill – Think like this - What have you been paid for, what do you want to get paid for and what would you be doing if you were not already in a job? list them all

‘What does the world need?’

This can be a tricky question and you may have on your list things like ‘compassion’ or ‘for people to have help reaching their potential’ – Think about it this way - what do the people around you need and how can you contribute to create a positive effect? list them all

All of these questions are personal to you and how you experience yourself and the world around you. There is no right or wrong way to do this, your lists are personal to you.

Step 2

Now that you have your lists it’s time to look at the parts of the diagram that intersect and find the common themes that connect circle and the intersection.

1. Where ‘What I love’ intersects’ What I am good at’

= Your Passion

Passion – There are things we engage with, do, experience that we really enjoy. And when that thing is something you will jump out of bed for, will put at the top of your to do list, will at always make time for, then that can be called a passion. It excites you, gets your motor running, is always a source of enjoyment and curiosity.

What things on the ‘What I love’ list are similar to the’ What I am good at’ list? These things are your passions so note them down.

2. Where ‘What I love’ intersects ‘What the World needs’

= Your Mission or Purpose

Mission or Purpose – This is something you want to achieve; it has an important place for you as a necessary thing to happen, an important goal. Nothing can get in the way of achieving it and you are determined that failure is not an option. It doesn’t have to be world changing, it just has to be a solid worthwhile goal.

What things on the ‘What I love’ list are similar to the’ What the world needs’ list? These things are your mission so note them down.

3. Where ‘What the world needs’ intersects ‘What I can be paid for’ = Your Vocation

Vocation – For the purposes of Ikigai, the definition of vocation is to do what the world needs. If the world needs more fun, and what you do is primarily fun for yourself and others, then it can be said to be a vocation – you are providing fun that the world needs more of.

What things on the ‘What the world needs’ list are similar to the’ What I can be paid for’ list? These things are your vocation, so note them down.

4. Where ‘What I can be paid for’ intersects with ‘What I am good at’ = Your Profession

Profession – The work you do is essentially your profession. It doesn’t matter what it is or that it pays - as a concept it is whatever you spend your time doing in the service of others. Employed, self-employed, volunteer, master or novice - in whatever guise it may come, the work you do is your profession.

What things on the ‘What the world needs’ list are similar to the’ What I can be paid for’ list? These things are your profession, so note them down.

Considering these foundational questions helps you to focus on finding the career choice that really fits and links to your Passion, Mission, Profession and Vocation.

So, you now have four refined lists and it is time to make the final refinement.

What things in those lists are similar? What themes are shining out now that are common in all four lists?

There may be just one thing, or a few. It is here that you have found you Ikigai career. This is now the thing that is common across all of what is important to you.

The example below gives you an idea of how this can work for you.

It may be a quick exercise, or it may take some time, but whatever the process is for you it is most definitely a worthwhile one.

Finding your Ikigai is a constant process so:

  1. Ask yourself tough questions

  2. Answer honestly

  3. Take your time

  4. Be open to trying new things

Don’t delay – Use the Ikigai to find your perfect career

And to help you on that journey - Book a free coaching session with a Shared Inspiration Coach who believes in you.


bottom of page