Although we’re all born with an innate skill for developing bad habits with ease, we often need a little help to get to grips with the “building good habits” life skill.
The very fact that so many people clamour each New Year’s Eve to announce resolutions for the coming year is evidence enough that we’re keen to develop good habits. In the back of our minds we hear our inner imps Reasoning and Self-Respect trying to convince us to do the right thing – and we know they’re right! So why don’t we get the job done?
What lacks for most of us are three things:
- A concrete list of easy, middling and longer-term habits we need or want to build.
- An idea of how to build these habits without overwhelming ourselves to the point that we give up.
- Sufficient mastery of our inner imps to actually stick with whatever habits we choose to try and build.
It’s taking time, but over the years I’ve come up with a way to develop my “building good habits” life skills that’s really simple and works just great for me.
I wrote down a list of all the good habits I wanted to build. To help you out here, I’ve listed a few of the things that featured on my list – I’m not ashamed to admit that some of them are still there!
- Restrict TV time to one or two meaningful programs during the week.
- Write or read for a minimum one hour every day – more if my schedule allows it.
- Exercise for 30 minutes 3 x a week.
- Eat more healthily.
- Spend 30 − 60 minutes “learning” playtime with the children every day. This includes either reading something educational to/with them, teaching them a new life skill, working with them on some small Montessori learning lessons I’ve put together for maths, english, german, science experiments, learning about animals, countries, history, etc. They get to choose what but it has to be from a “prepared” selection of educational things.
- Checking my email and catching up on the news just ONCE a day.
- Having a 15 minute “put away” time for the whole family before the children go to bed.
I took a habit from the list and developed a short step by step plan for how I was going to achieve it. Where I still have these plans, I’m getting them organised to post to the site.
I’ve managed to get the “put away” habit formatted so click here if you’re interested. It’s simple, but helpful all the same.
Once you’ve chosen your habit and come up with your plan, the next step is IMPLEMENTATION – and this is where I used to tend to fall down (along with most other people!).
We start off all gung-ho, but then within a matter of a few days give up. It’s all too much effort. Laziness manages to convince Reasoning that we weren’t getting by so badly without the habit so why worry and put in all the effort?
If you’re going to succeed, you’re going to need to have a serious word with a few of your inner imps – namely Self-Discipline, Persistence and Responsibility. If any of these chaps throw the game, you’re gonna be kind of stuffed so you need to keep them on a pretty short leash. The good news is, if you can get them to toe the line for just four weeks (a mini-mini month), then you should be on to a winner.
Because building new habits takes time but, if you can hang on in there for approximately four weeks, Autonomy will get his/her ass out of bed and take over. Once Autonomy starts throwing the weight around you can keep going with the habit without having to spend so much time and effort convincing Self-Discipline and Persistence to just get the job done already.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
When we slip up or forget – usually because Self-Discipline took the day off – the tendency (or habit) is to listen to the likes of Doubt, Laziness and Fear. This troublesome trio will be whispering words of discouragement in your ear “We told you you couldn’t do it”, “Oh just give up, it’s such hard work and won’t matter if you don’t do it/do do it just this once”.
Often we give up entirely at this point because this trio of tyrants gang up and present a particularly convincing argument, the important thing however is to simply accept that you slipped up ONE TIME and then STOP LISTENING TO DOUBT, LAZINESS AND FEAR. You chose to build this new habit for a very good reason and that reason still exists. Get Reasoning to remind you of those reasons. Tell these inner naysaying imps to bugger off and simply carry on with the habit the next day. It’s not easy, but you CANDo it.
Building good habits is a life skill that will set you up with a rock solid way to ensure you continue developing and living your life the way you want to. If you have a successful history of controlling your inner imps for small habits here and there that improve the quality of your life, you’ll be more likely to adapt and succeed if some big shizzle ever hits the fan at some later point in your life.
Get the life skill now. Build those internal control muscles in your mind with small habit building successes here and there and you’ll be living life your way.
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