Seven years ago, I found a cockroach floating in my coffee cup.
At the time, I was working as an ESL teacher in a crumbling building in a not-particularly-great neighborhood.
Our receptionist’s computer was stolen off her desk in the middle of a work day. Once, our grammar lesson was interrupted by a man urinating against the glass door of our street-level classroom.
I earned $34,000 a year at that job. With a master’s degree and all the debt that goes with it.
It seems strange to credit the creation of one daily habit with getting out of that job, but it’s the truth.
My daily writing habit got me out of that (Fulfilling but exhausting! Extremely underpaid! Sort of dangerous!) job.
And if I look at how much I earned as an ESL teacher and how much I earn now, over the course of seven years …
My daily writing habit is worth $280,000. At least.
That doesn’t include the value I place on the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for myself. That doesn’t include the friendships I’ve made, the trips I’ve taken, the opportunities I’ve had.
That’s just a cold, hard, math-based fact about how much more money I’ve earned because I developed a daily writing habit.
And I bet you have your own version of this.
How much money would you save if you finally kicked your mindless online shopping habits? If you stopped smoking? If you stopped going out for cocktails four nights a week with the coworkers you don’t really like?
How much more money would you bring in if you developed a daily habit of emailing a professional peer? Or spent an hour every morning working on your book proposal?
I realize it’s a little unusual to attach a price tag to a habit, but I’ve found it to be a really effective way to sort of shock me (and maybe you?) into making change.
We all know we should drink more water, take our vitamins, network, charge our phones outside of our bedrooms, but it’s easy to put off change for “some other time” or to underestimate how these good habits could change our lives.
But attaching a monetary value to a habit can shock us into taking action.
Eating more fruits and vegetables could save me thousands of dollars in medication because I’m predisposed to Type 2 diabetes.
Charging my phone outside my bedroom means I’ll sleep better. Sleeping better means I’ll get sick less (and work more + earn more). I’ll snap at my friends, stepsons, and husband less (and spend less on therapy and apology gifts).
If you ran the numbers, how much is your good habit worth? And how much is your bad habit costing you?