Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Learned about Habits

After my bout of chikungunya, I had two weeks of vacation which became my period of convalescence. I felt that this fortnight was a chance for a fresh start.

To aid in this reset, I chose specific habits that I hoped would serve as a building block for greater successes in the future.

I downloaded several productivity apps on to my Iphone so I could compare them and see which I liked best. I set up my habits on each interface and started to make time in my day for them, which was easy because I was on vacation.

The real test would come when I returned to work but to my delight, I managed to keep these habits going even when I went back on shift. Encouraged by this, I started to add more habits to my list as my confidence grew with success in the others.

My current list of daily habits are:

  • Brushing my teeth at night
  • Flossing
  • Journaling
  • Yoga/Stretching
  • Visualization & Affirmation
  • Blogging
  • Meditation
  • Knitting
  • Writing a To-do list before bedtime

Habit Chef - Helps me to perfect my Habit Recipe

During this process I stumbled across the podcast Habit Chef, by Kendra Kinnison. She offers simple, practical but very effective changes to make your habit recipe more effective.

She coined the phrase habit recipe, to denote choosing habits that are tailored to helping you to 'cook up' the life you want to create and using tools and techniques that help you implement these habits successfully.

I love this way of thinking because we are all different and each of us will have a different set of habits that will assist us in reaching our goals. We also will have different challenges that hinder us from sticking with a habit.

From her I learned that it is best to start your habits very small, ridiculously small actually. For instance if you want to floss your teeth every night, just commit to flossing one tooth. Doing this will make the habit less difficult to do, by reducing your natural resistance to how hard the task may seem.

Another tip I found particularly powerful was to be very specific in the goals you want to achieve. Knowing why you were trying to put a habit into place, would give you the motivation needed to stick with it.

Kendra also suggested that you tack a new habit on to an old habit that you have already. I used this to start flossing once I had cemented my habit of brushing my teeth and I was pleasantly surprised at the good results I got.

Mind you, I am still only flossing a couple of teeth every night, but each time I do it, I get more comfortable with the process.

Kendra also introduced me to the Lift app for tracking habits. It is the app that I have stuck with out of all the others I have tried, Balanced was a close second.

Lift beat out the competition because it is completely free, you can track as many habits as you like, you can join a habit with a group to have accountability, and you can get props from other members to help you stay motivated.

The Unexpected Side Effect

What caught me off-guard is that putting these new habits in place made me question my existing habits. I noticed that I spent hours playing games on my Iphone or just puttering around in an online loop from Facebook, to the Ravelry forums, then to the YNAB forums - rinse, lather repeat.

At first I accepted these habits as a natural part of my daily routine but as I continued to identify more beneficial habits that would improve my life in ways that are more important to me, I  had to admit that even an hour spent in that on-line loop was severely impacting my ability to make my dream life come into being.

I have to be honest about why I was initially so resistant to admitting that those habits were draining my energy and productivity - If I wasn't doing those things, I wouldn't have any excuses not to tackle my fears and get on with the task of living the life I kept saying that I wanted.

Simply put, I was using that loop as a distraction and hiding from my to-do list. Although I do get some value from those activities, I have to strictly limit the time I spent on them.

This is the next frontier for me in my habit journey, controlling my time online and putting my energy where it is most needed.

The most useful habit I have picked up so far, turns out to be the habit of frequently and honestly accessing my life and making changes to what is no longer serving my higher purpose.

Also taking time to define my purpose gave me with the drive I need to push through with a habit even on days where I feel lackluster.

And a good woman too.

Final Words on Habits

What they say about adding new habits to your life is very true. If you stick with it, it does start to become second nature. Now whenever I think of going to bed, my next thought is that I need to brush my teeth.

In the past I would remember when I was already between the sheets, and the resistance to getting up and doing it was much greater. I lost that battle more times than I care to admit.

I have learned that by intentionally creating habits that will lead me to where I want to go, I can slowly, but surely, create my ideal future.

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