“I have so many habits I need to introduce into my life, how do I choose?” This is a question I hear from participants in the various Habits Workshops that I have led. Ultimately, each participant has been able to narrow their focus to one habit. Habits have included exercising, having more fun, clearing clutter, making time for friendships, and more.
Identifying the right habit for your life is one of the most challenging aspects of habit formation. It requires us to be intentional and to take a step back to see what we need most in our life. Habits allow for proactivity. When we live our life filled with activities based on internal choices rather than external “shoulds”, we live our life with integrity and authenticity.
Each workshop begins with a self-reflection where participants evaluate: What do I need to do to make my life better? What is important to me? What do I value? A habit can be an effective vehicle for forward motion; so choosing a destination is helpful to selecting the right habit to get there. I have been inspired by the thoughtfulness and creativity Workshop participants have brought to selecting their habit. Below are a few examples.
- “Emotion leads to Motion” Tal Ben-Shahar
One working mom came to the Workshop frustrated by her unsuccessful attempts to set aside 15 minutes a day to do homework with her middle school daughter and high school son. Her kids had been resisting her efforts and she was unable to push past their resistance.
Fortunately, the reflection exercise in the first session of the Workshop reminded her why she wanted to implement this habit. She felt she needed to be more involved with her kids work habits and to provide them with direction and guidance. Knowing the underlying reason for her involvement allowed her the ability to push forward and overcome their resistance.
Surprisingly, after only one week in the habit, her kids were fighting over who got to work with her first! And after only four weeks in the habit, her daughter’s teacher sent home a note praising her daughter’s improved work product. Connecting emotionally was the engine that propelled this action.
2. Trial and Error–A Flexible Approach to Habit Selection
Sometimes selecting the right habit requires trial and error before the right habit becomes clear. One Workshop participant first decided that she wanted to be “on time” more often; however, she then decided to change her habit later in the Workshop to be more proactive with her scheduling. By the end of the Workshop, she concluded that neither habit seemed to be what she needed, yet she was still committed to finding that right habit.
A week later, she emailed me saying that she found the perfect habit. She was going to start meditating every day. I was thrilled with her choice. I believe that through meditation, she will be able to calm her mind and connect with herself and that will ultimately positively impact all aspects of her life.
The first habit you select may not be the magic bullet you need but through trial and error you will hopefully determine a habit worthy of your time and effort. Stick with it when you know that your life needs something!
3. Remember the Forest from the Trees
Remembering the root reasons for our habits is also essential to habit formation. Connecting with why we created a habit is not only a powerful motivator but it is also a reliable reference point when molding our habit.
One of my participants wanted to read more in order to have some quiet time. Reading was the vehicle for time alone. During the Workshop, she figured out that multi-tasking while reading may increase the number of books she read, it did not contribute to her ultimate goal of quiet time and therefore should not “count” towards her habit. In order to fulfill her desire for quiet time, she needed to set aside time to read without distraction, single tasking rather than multi-tasking her habit.
Clarity of purpose can ensure that we stay focused on the goal of our habit rather than the habit itself.
4. Take Small Steps– Gretchen Rubin
Another participant, who had recently started working full time, was starved for time alone. She discovered that the only way she could have alone time was to wake up earlier. Since she is a night owl, waking up early was very difficult for her.
When forming the habit to wake up early, we decided that she should focus on doing something enjoyable. It is much easier to get out of bed at 5:30 am when you are getting up to do something you like. Ultimately, she may like to exercise at this time, but for now she is going to work on the habit of getting up early and enjoying the morning before the kids wake up and the chaos of her day begins. Where her habit goes from there will be up to her, but celebrating the victory of getting up earlier is a step in the right direction.
In summary, when choosing a habit, be sure to:
- Connect emotionally with your habit. Remember emotion leads to motion.
- Take the time to experiment with your habit until you find one that fits.
- Focus on the underlying reason you choose the habit and stay true to that purpose.
- If the habit is tough to start, take bite size chunks and celebrate those small victories.
If you are interested in learning about how coaching can help you move forward with a positive habit or about my Habits Workshops, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.amyalpert.com.