Thursday, March 31, 2016

6 Steps to Harnessing the Power of Habit

I'm a big fan of the power of habit. 
Our world can change on the power of our habits. 
Every time I see pictures of the Grand Canyon and what the Colorado River has done, one eroding water droplet at a time, I am reminded of the power of  consistent habits. 
As hard as it can seem to develop healthy habits, the truth is we have habits anyway.  Many of them are just not the habits we would prefer to have. 
Like the habit of leaving the kitchen a mess.  Or not making the bed or whatever it happens to be that is either annoying to you or not kind for others coming behind us. 
I could expand on that all day, but I thought I'd share 6 simple but power-packed tips we can put into practice to develop the habits we would like in our lives. 
1. Pick ONE habit. 
Only one. A confused mind does nothing.  Focusing on too much at once is a quick way to overload and we shut down.  Pick just one habit you would like to incorporate.  Exercise, reading your bible, whatever you are most interested in at this moment.  Be free from all you 'should' do and pick something you'd like to do. Here's why--discipline in one area helps discipline in other areas.  If you work on something you're excited about, it helps with motivation to keep going. You can get to all those other areas in the future. 
2. Break it down to all the steps involved & reduce it to it's most basic form.
Brainstorm the steps that make up that habit.  Using the exercise scenario, you could run, do squats or plank.  Three things.  Knowing what you'd like it to look like one day, set aside all of those and focus on 1 of them for now. (see #1)
3. Make it ridiculously easy. 
Seriously. If being able to run for 30 minutes straight is something you want, make your first goal to run for 5 minutes at the treadmill's lowest possible setting. 
4. Do the ridiculous every day. 
Consistency is the crazy key that makes the whole thing work. And when your goal is so ridiculously easy, you bang that out without much thought and get to enjoy the sense of achievement that comes from working on your goal.  You find yourself saying, 'of course I can do that, it's only..." This why it needs to be a small enough goal to be ridiculously easy.  When you find yourself doing one tiny little step of your habit EVERY day, say for 2 weeks, you've built a momentum that can then be expanded. 
5. Expand the ridiculous.  
Now can you take your new, tiny little habit to the next step.  With the running scenario, maybe you go from running 5 minutes to running 7 minutes for a week or more.  But here's the caution, be careful how rapidly you expand.  This is a fluid dynamic and one that only you can navigate for yourself.  If you bump out your habit and find it has become too big a deal in your mind, back off.  Really.  The point isn't to get to your end point as quickly as possible.  It's to establish room in your life.  Once there is room for your habit and other things  have been adjusted to accommodate, then expand to the next logical step.  If you find yourself not working on it or being sidetracked, go back to what seems ridiculously easy in your mind and go from there. 
6. Next Habit.
When you find yourself doing the thing without much thought or bother and getting back on track rather easily when life happens to interrupt the habit, congratulate yourself for all the work you did to get your new habit!  When it has become the habit you wanted to have, enjoy picking out a new habit to work on if you'd like. 

It's a pretty simple process. 
Know that there will be interruptions. 
Decide in advance to get right back on track.  Make the pity party quick. 
Choose to be okay with the unlinear path. 
Grant yourself the grace of a learning curve and have fun. 
If you incorporate only 2 new habits this whole year, that's more than you started with. 
Sometimes just having something that you are working on that provides a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small, can be the encouragement you need to know life is moving forward. 

So what habits are you working on? :-) 

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