Upon deciding to write a post about creating good habits I began to ponder on the scarcity of my bad habits. I’m happy to say in my life that I don’t have alot of bad habits. I’m not a chain-smoker, I don’t eat fast food, I don’t spend impulsively, I’m pretty organized, I wake early, I eat healthy, I hike almost every day, etc. Yet in the midst of stretching my arm overhead to pat my own back, my conscience chimed in “Uh-uh not so fast! You might want to get a second opinion on this one.” So out I marched to the resident objective bystander, my beau. Hard at work in his studio across our breezeway I found him glued to his monitor. I brazenly asked, “Honey, what bad habits do I have?” He looked at me as if I suddenly had a third leg growing out of my head.
“What bad habits do you have??”
“Umm, can I get back to you on that?”
“Oh nevermind, I just wanted a quick answer so I could put it in my blog,” I said.
“Well, you eat too much popcorn?” he complied.
“I told you that about myself earlier this morning.”
“Umm, errr, well….”
“You kinda slam doors when you’re cranky.” as he said this I could see him recoil, thinking we were about to be on the fast track to argument-ville
“Okay…” I replied encouragingly, “Anything else?”
“Just that when you get irritable, you do cranky things and shut down a little.”
Honest, yes. Hard to hear, of course. I’ll explain, this is something pretty much reserved for our household. It’s this sort of passive-agressive behavior one obtains when they feel they have no voice. Children in abusive homes don’t have the opportunity to speak up, rather their anger, frustration, sadness is stifled or forced out of them in other, often ‘inappropriate’ ways. I grew up in an abusive household, as did my parents, gratefully I didn’t retain any of the abusive actions, but the passive-agressive pattern is an unspoken family heirloom which I’m actively packing up and shipping off. It’s frankly the one last layer hanging on my true being..and I find it deplorable. Over the years I have made incredible strides in shifting this ramshackle coping mechanism which comes from a very young girl inside. I now catch myself when engaging this behavior and have been actively trying to form a new habit of speaking consciously and openly about whatever is bothering me. In doing so, it feels a bit creaky. My mind says, “What? I can express how I feel without repercussion? I can actually sit down and have a conversation rather than a confrontation??” It truly is a whole new world!
My hope in this transparency is that you’ll be able to see your own habits and embark on the 21-Day Challenge with me. It’s amazing what funky old habits we find when we do a little excavation. Today I’ll give you the steps you’ll need to effectively create a brand-spankin’ new good habit!
Step 1: What’s not working for you?
Label it, write it down, right now.. What is not working for you in your life? What old behaviors, patterns are you engaged with that are affecting your life. You might first see the symptoms, weight gain, physical tension, irritability, exhaustion. Know these are symptoms of a deeper pattern, so dig deep and label it. Also what is this pattern’s origin? Where does it come from? Chances are you’ll find it’s an imprint from someone else not something you’ve created out of thin air. The more information you know about it, the more ammo you’ll have to disengage.
Step 2: Envision!
Energy follows focus so envision yourself of how you want to be. This may show up as characteristics in your life such as having more peace, having more time, having more energy, etc. And again dig deeper to create a snapshot of what this looks like. For instance in my mind, I’m that woman in all the herbal tea ads, wrapped up in my white cashmere robe, with glowing skin, at my perfect weight, gazing peacefully out a large picture window. See what I mean? Create that image in your mind, then every time you begin to falter you may return to something which represents the true you in your mind’s eye.
Step 3: Make the Decision!
I’m surely dating myself when I quote Albert Finney in Network who declares, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!!!” but when you reach that point where you know this thing in your life isn’t working for you anymore, you kind of feel like him. But ahhh, we’re so good at completing steps 1 & 2, yet when it comes to actually making the decision to do it, we make excuses instead. Make the firm decision to change. Be fearless! We’re great at being our own worst critic, but now it’s time to be your own cheer section. Get fired up! Pound your fist on the table and declare to yourself, “This is my life and I’m making great choices from this point on!”
Step 4: Name the New Habit!
Okay, you’ve made the decision to proceed to Step 4, now name the new habit you’re going to practice for 21-days. Maybe it’s a workout, eating healthy, perhaps it’s simple mantra or meditation. What will you do for 21-days to effectively change what is not working for you in your life? Name it, write it down, plaster it to your forehead, tell your loved ones, whatever you need to remind yourself and stay on the new path.
Step 5: 21-Days
They say that if you practice anything for 21 days it becomes integrated within you. The first 7 days is The Understanding Phase, the time it takes the new habit to wrestle your old pattern to the ground and make it scream “uncle!” The old pattern will be resistant, but the more you introduce the new habit, the old begins to lose its grip.
The Practicing Phase is the second week where we begin to practice the wisdom of the new habit. For instance when we embark on our second week of meditation, our mind becomes less frantic and the idea of ‘focusing on the breath’ actually begins to make sense and sound less like a maddening platitude.
The Hallelujah Phase happens in the third week where we begin to reap the reward and taste the nectar of our efforts. You feel calmer because of your meditation, you’re less reactive after your hike in nature, you don’t feel like a total jackass after expressing yourself consciously–okay that last part was actually me. And if you look closer, you’ll notice the world around you has shifted too!
Step 6: Schedule
Now that the mystery of the 21-Day thing has been revealed it’s time to schedule it. You’ve made the decision to adopt a new habit, now schedule a timeline. 21-days is preferable, and remember to practice kindness and be realistic. The last time my beau and I did a cleanse, we scheduled it with the third week landing on Superbowl…errgh! I can tell you the nachos and beer won. However I was back on it with a vengeance the next day. You want to play with this new habit, enjoy it, let it integrate, so be mindful of scheduling it at a time that’s best for you.
Step 7: Acknowledge the Challenge & the Reward
As you venture on this journey of establishing this new habit, you’ll no doubt encounter challenges along with the rewards. Whether jotting it in a journal or ruminating on my hike, I take the time to acknowledge where I’ve been, where I’m going and where I’m paused along the path. Upon entering into the Hallelujah Phase, whenever that is for you, be sure to do the same. It brings about more gratitude and ensures a continuance with this newly ingrained habit.
Most of all:
Remember that creating a new habit is like working an atrophied muscle. It may seem awkward at first, but the more you work it, the stronger it becomes!
Are you ready for your own 21-day challenge? Let’s do this!