Any day is a Great One to Begin a New Habit

Thanks to G Mitteregger,  for the beautiful photo taken in Yellowknife, NWT, in 2003 with Dr. Itami and his MLT group.

Many years ago, I used to go to the gym/pool, three times a week at 6:00 AM, with my Mother and a friend. We greeted the usual early birds, and had our pick of equipment, as well as a pool almost to ourselves. Showers and change rooms were plentiful. We thought it was great.

And then a New Year arrived and that first day back at the gym was crowded, with line-ups for everything.

“What happened,” I asked the attendant?

“A New Year,” she responded. “Don’t worry, she added, “they will mostly be gone by the 14th.”

She was right. Two weeks later we were back to our small group with no more lineups.

What happened?

According to an article by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, in Fast Company, he writes:

“So, why are significant changes to our habits so hard to attain?” Psychology provides some useful answers:

“First, according to Dr. Thomas, there is a big difference between wanting change and wanting to change. Even when people profess a clear desire to change, what that usually means is that they are interested in change as an outcome rather than change as a process. In other words, most people don’t really want to change, they want to have changed.”

That just about sums it up. I want to be fit, but I am less engaged in doing what that takes than the thought of getting fit. (for the record that is changing) :-))

So, what can we do when we really want to make a change?

For this week why not choose one thing you want to do where you have not been consistent. Make it reasonable. Make it tiny. The Kaizen approach really works. One small step every day. Equally important, according to Stanford professor BJFogg, is to anchor it to something you already do daily without thinking. Such as:

  1. Brushing your teeth
  2. First cup of coffee
  3. Turning on your computer
  4. Dropping your child off at school

You get the picture.

None of us need to use our willpower to brush our teeth. It is an automatic habit. Why not use that to attach something else that you want to make a habit. We all know how to floss our teeth, but do we do it every day? If not, (and you want to) try something like this. I intend to start by flossing my two implants. I don’t like doing it, and I am inconsistent. I hope that by doing just that simple step of flossing implants, every time I brush, I can instill the habit of flossing daily, and, with time, I can add more teeth until I’ve got it. I want flossing to become like the simple act of brushing my teeth. I figure it is worth a try.

When I read the book, The Power of Moments, I liked Dan and Chip Heath’s take on New Year’s Resolutions:

Why wait for a new year if you want to make a change. Jump in at anytime and get started. If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You. This is why people don’t often change their lives until the worst possible moment. It’s only once they’re on the brink of destruction, that they finally say, ‘I must either give up or rise up.'”

And this brings me to illness.

It is common when we get diagnosed with a serious illness that we make significant changes in our lives. Some changes are forced on us and others we initiate. For many, illness is that “defining moment” that the Heath Brothers talk about. A catalyst for new beginnings, where priorities and actions take on new meaning and change happens.

So,  don’t give up on yourself if building a new habit doesn’t come easy. Take it slow and one step at a time. Anchor it to something you already do.

No need to wait for a new year. We can start anytime.

Notes

Note 1:) I published this little piece on the private FB account I moderate, for people living with illnesses.  I apologize to the five readers here who read all of my scribblings, as this is a repeat for you.

Note 2:) I am learning something about tiny habits. I had created three for this week and one worked as I hoped but not the other two, so I tweaked them. This is the thing, when working with a new habit, if you aren’t doing it, try something different. Experiment. Just don’t give up.

Note 3:) Thank you for your kind comments and emails. Last week’s poem spoke to many and I treasure your responses.  I am grateful to you, dear reader, for showing up. I hope wherever you are, in this wide world that you have a week with unexpected good surprises. Warmly, Trudy

3 replies
  1. Janice
    Janice says:

    Such an important distinction: wanting change as an outcome and wanting to change as a process. Just understanding that helps to change my thinking 🙂 thanks Trudy xoxoxo

    Reply
  2. Patti Morris
    Patti Morris says:

    I agree with Janice, it is helpful to consider the distinction between wanting change as an outcome and wanting to change as a process. As always, thank you for the wisdom and inspiration Trudy. There are some things I hope to change. Your post has given me some useful strategies. I am grateful.

    Reply
  3. Tamara
    Tamara says:

    As a caregiver, changes happen in an instant for the person who needs the change immediately. Changes for me happen when I can make the change at a future time. Unless I make myself a priority change will not happen. The fight in me takes away energy to go forward. Distractions are welcomed. Changing diets and meals are the best I can do some days. Thank you for your blogs. I am processing.

    Reply

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