Between reading Better Than Before* by Gretchen Rubin and the upcoming start of The 100 Day Project by Elle Luna and Lindsay Jean Thomson, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to cultivate new habits and why some habits are easier to stick to than others.
For instance, every morning I wake up, grab my phone and spend 15-30 minutes scrolling through social media as I wait for my daughter to get up. Not necessarily the best use of my time, but a daily habit nonetheless. I’ve also recently gotten into the habit of sitting down at my desk when my daughter goes down for her afternoon nap to sketch and paint a face of someone that inspires me. And if I don’t get it in then, I do it as soon as she goes to bed for the night.
Then there are the habits that are much harder to stick to, like getting up and doing yoga or filling out my 5-Minute Journal* first thing in the morning instead of reaching for my phone. Or drinking more water throughout the day. For whatever reason, those habits stick for a day or two before I resort back to my old behaviors or just skip them altogether.
When I look back at the times I’ve been most successful in keeping up with new habits — like meditating daily or my #100daysofyoga and #100daysofblogging experiences — there are a few overarching themes that tie them all together.
First, I anchored the habit with something else I was already doing. With meditation, I anchored it to my morning routine of getting up, brushing my teeth, and meditating. Same thing with yoga. I woke up, got my daughter a snack, set her up with the iPad, and rolled out my mat. It was the same every single morning, which made it less about my desire or motivation to do those things and all about the routine.
I also set myself up for success by doing everything I could to remove potential roadblocks or excuses. When I was doing yoga, I would pick out the yoga video the night before and even went so far as to make a playlist for those days or nights when I was too tired (or just plain forgot) to pick something out. I would also keep my yoga mat and iPad in the room so that I could just wake up and roll my mat out without any thought or effort. With my daily paintings, I have paper pre-cut and my brushes and paints out on my desk so that I am constantly reminded that it’s there.
Looking back, I realize that I was most successful with sticking to habits when they were in alignment with what I care most about. This one is a curse and a blessing for me because I know that when I’m really struggling with a habit it’s because it’s not something I really and truly care about. I can tell myself that drinking water or eating better is important, but the reality is, I value something else more. Whether that’s ease, convenience, or even the pleasure of eating french fries and brownies. The good news is, when I hit on something that I care a whole lot about, I will move mountains to make it work in my life.
In addition to everything mentioned already, I make sure that I am accountable to someone other than myself. One of the biggest reasons that I participate in #The100DayProject and tell people about what I’m doing is the accountability it provides. Being accountable to others is so important for me, particularly when I’m building a new habit or when my motivation begins to wane. So whether you’re most comfortable telling one person or the entire world, the key here is that someone besides yourself knows and can hold you to it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the habits I stick with are the ones that go beyond surface level needs. When I started meditation, I was just looking for a way to take care of myself. What I got in addition to that was a deep connection to my intuition, healing of my mind and body, and a more balanced existence. When I embarked on #100daysofblogging, I was initially in it to build content and engagement on a new website. But what I got instead was a significant amount of insight and clarity through daily writing and a deep knowing that I could do anything I set my mind to achieve. Same goes for #100daysofyoga. The strength, balance, and joy I gained from that daily practice was and still is something that I draw from on a regular basis.
I’m sure there’s more to it than that; in fact, I know there’s more to it than that because Gretchen Rubin has written several fantastic books on the topic. But this is what has rung true for me over the years when it comes to cultivating new habits or, even, in tweaking my old ones.
What about you?
Have you ever thought about the routines — intentional or not — that fill up your day? What has helped you be successful with changing things up or adding new habits into the mix?
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