Habits are easy to Keep.
I mentioned in passing in my last post that I have a “walk every day” habit, that began about 3 months ago. In the past few days the concept of “good” or useful habits has been keeping my mind occupied. We are sometimes ruled by our habits – the ones we don’t choose. The nail biting, the comfort eating, the gossiping, whatever. We started doing something and now we don’t even notice we’re doing it. When we do notice (or when someone points it out to us) we feel guilty and promise to break it, but breaking a habit is harder than making it and we often fail.
The thing that’s been going through my mind is: Since I find it easy to “do” habits (easy to bite my nails, really easy to talk mean to myself when I make a mistake), then what if I could make something useful easy to do – by making it a habit!
How I Started a Habit.
For months I had guilted myself out about not walking. That made me feel worse. No motivation to walk only mean self talk. Then one day I started, it was accidental. The sun happened to be shining and I was near the beach bringing my son to school. Instead of driving back home I went for a walk. It wasn’t much fun. I worked out how far I’d have to walk to do 30 minutes (for some reason a 30 minute walk was what I wanted to do) and then I went back to the car. During the day I did feel better though because now that I had walked, anytime I was reminded of walking I felt great instead of guilt. (Great good! Guilt Bad!)
Next morning I didn’t think about walking, just brought my son to school as usual. But driving home I remembered and grudgingly parked the car and walked. It kept going like that. My walk was now connected to the drive to school and it became harder not to walk. For the first few weeks I didn’t walk on the weekends but something shifted and I started to miss walking. Now my son is finished school and I still walk every morning. Now I look forward to it. Maybe I’ll start a “walk twice a day” habit!
I’m going to try an experiment : Start a habit to watch (only) one hour of television each evening. (I already have a habit of watching television from dinner to 10 pm). Looking at how I started the “walk every day” habit, I think I can identify some before and after steps:
1. Positively, minutely, specifically, name the habit. (I had a thirty minute walk in my mind for a long time before I began.) I will watch television from 9pm until 10 pm, only, each evening. I will read or paint or draw or write between dinner and 9pm.
2. Make it possible. (I had rain gear and sun cream in the car to cover all eventualities.) I’ll have writing, reading, drawing and painting material set out on the kitchen table.
3. Make it real! (I’d been imagining how much better I’d feel if I walked more.) Choose something you want to achieve and daydream what it would be like if you had it.
4. Connect it to something. (I connected walking to driving my son to school.) Dinner.
5. Tell someone. (I told my son.) I’m telling you!
After the Start Date:
1. Once started, keep going. This is especially true for the first 21 days, after that it becomes harder to stop!
2. Do it at your pace. (I walk at a slow to medium pace when I walk on my own and for some reason it “feels” right.) One hour of television each evening “feels” right for me, even though I may cut that to 3 hours a week for my next habit!
Start a Habit.
If you want to join me with your own habit, can I suggest that you pick something that seems easy to start with, because success is very motivating. And even easy things can help you shift an old unwanted habit! After you’ve got good at this you can go for a bigger challenge!
What habit do you want to start?