By Jalene Case
Positive habits result in a sweet sense of satisfaction. Are your habits doing that for you? If not, it might be time to strengthen the routines you want to keep and toss the ones that no longer serve you.
This is personal for me. My habits have changed dramatically to fit a 35-year corporate career, two years of traveling by motorcycle in Latin America, and three years of running a business. Each of those areas required very different routines. I bet your helpful habits have changed over the years, too.
I continually get better at seeing how my habits work for me and against me. Recently I asked myself, “How do I fortify the habits that are helping me so I can more easily reach my desired outcomes?” That question lit my curiosity.
As my awareness of habits has increased, I’ve come to believe that whether we’re aware of them or not, they’re a powerful force in our lives. Now, I want to see and use them. I want my habits to bring me feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy!
If you’re curious about your habits, here are some places to begin honing them.
Start with stopping.
What habits are no longer serving you? They might be left over from another time in your life. Maybe you started doing them unconsciously and, although you know they’re not helping, you’re having trouble unhooking from them.
One of the habits that I’ve stopped is related to taking breaks. My habit was to never take a break at work. Almost all the time, I would eat lunch at my desk, while working on the computer, and not take morning or afternoon breaks.
Thanks to my coach, I stopped that habit. She helped me see that taking breaks actually increased my productivity. Now, I take morning and afternoon breaks, usually with a healthy snack, plus a lunch hour which typically involves eating while listening to a podcast and then listening to a guided meditation.
This habit took time to change. Initially I felt like a loafer! Slowly I noticed a shift. My belief changed from “no breaks means I’m a hard worker” to “breaks mean I’m a smart, productive worker taking care of myself so I don’t burnout.”
How are beliefs connected with habits?
I believed that not taking breaks proved I was working hard. I thought working more hours meant I would be more successful. Now I believe that when I take better care of myself, I do better work which leads to more meaningful success.
Which comes first, the habit change or the belief change? That’s like asking, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It could go either way. In my example of breaks, first I changed the habit and then my new belief hatched.
Choose what you want first.
Snazzy new habits will lose steam fast if they’re not truly hooked-up with your desires. So, “What do you want?” That’s a simple question and yet so tough to answer sometimes.
The reason I focused on taking breaks as a habit was because I wanted to build a business in which I could take care of myself rather than burning out like I’d done in the past.
I suggest starting simple. What’s one thing you want? Play with creating one habit related to it. Here’s a trick for making habits stick. Build a habit chain by connecting a new habit to a current one. For example, while drinking coffee in the morning (current habit) write in your journal (new habit) or, when you first sit down at your desk (current), take time to plan your day (new). A habit chain will make new habits easier to start and stick to.
What do you want to learn more about before creating a new habit?
I’ve found that sometimes I don’t know what habit will help me. In that case, learning a new perspective, approach, or process is what guides me toward a new habit.
For example, in the taking a break scenario, my coach introduced the new perspective that breaks lead to increased productivity. Right now, I’m trying out a time-blocking approach I learned from the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. I’m also experimenting with a process for connecting with potential new clients. All of those areas will be stronger with good habits.
K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Sweetie
When I’m at my best, I keep things simple rather than complex. Imagine one area of your life that you truly want to make better. Use the tips above to choose one habit that you’re pretty sure will move you closer to what you want. Try it for an appropriate time period. If it works, continue doing it. If it doesn’t work, try a different habit.
You get to be in charge of the habits that you stop and start doing. By noticing them, you can choose to let go of those getting in your way and fortify the ones that will move you toward what you desire. What’s one simple habit that you’ll commit to taking for a test run? I’d love to cheer you on! Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.