As humans, we like to go big or go home. Even when it comes to basic behavior change, we want to make a splash.
We'll wait for the “right time" before we decide to really commit (or recommit) to something.
Here’s how it often sounds:
- I’ll start eating better on Monday. (My colleague endearingly refers to this common phrasing as “Monday people”)
- I’ll start sleeping better next week after this project.
- I’ll stop smoking at the end of this pack/ the end of this month.
- I’ll start saving money when I get a raise.
- I’ll start exercising as a New Year’s Resolution.
- I’ll clean out clutter when the next neighborhood garage sale rolls around.
And the list goes on.
I, for one, have made some pretty kickass changes in the past year. I started waking up earlier (and usually going to bed earlier), blogging consistently, working out more regularly than ever before, meditating daily, and switching to a pescetarian style of eating (can you tell I hate the word “diet”?). I’ve taken on oodles of new interests and hobbies, like learning about and experimenting with essential oils and flower essences, tarot and oracle cards, crystals (okay, yeah, I’m a total hippie), getting ready to cut a band demo, gearing up for yoga teacher training this fall, writing and releasing an eBook, and getting more involved with my UU church.
And all in all, I’ve done a pretty damn good job at sticking with the habit/behavior changes and digging into the learning and exploration. But make no mistake — I am so NOT immune to the gravitational pull that is AUTOPILOT.
In the past several weeks, I’ve been slowly but surely taking an inventory of my life and noticing where I need to make some mini-adjustments: I had been slacking recently on blogging once/week. I had started snoozing my phone alarm multiple times, or lying in bed surfing email and Facebook for 20 minutes before getting up. I’ve been hot-and-cold with journaling. I’d find myself tethered to a computer most of the day on a Saturday, when I should be out adventuring. I’d nervously chew at my nails and compulsively check my phone for lord-knows-what. I’d stress myself out searching through different yoga videos for 10 minutes trying choose “just the right one” to do (counterproductive, much?)
Gradually, I’ve been recommitting. I’ve been making little adjustments bit by bit, not as a dramatic changes and not all at once. In her new book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin dives deep into the study of habits and all the factors that contribute to successful habit formation. I haven’t yet read the book (may wait for the paperback to release), but I’ve listened to numerous recent podcast interviews in which Gretchen discusses the key concepts. One of the ideas she talks about is that some of us do well with making more dramatic changes/commitments (like “I don’t exercise, so I’m going to sign-up for this marathon in 4 months and train everyday!”), and some of us fare better with more gradual shifts (“Maybe I’ll sign up for Couch to 5k and plan to get in 2-3 jogs a week and a yoga class.”) It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing, and you have to be honest with yourself about which way works best for YOU.
In one blog post, Rubin writes,
"Some people have better success changing a habit when they start small. A series of small but real accomplishments gives them the energy and confidence to continue. For instance, a person who wants to write a novel might resolve to write one sentence each day. Or a person who wants to start running might resolve to run for one minute. This approach is often emphasized as the best way to form a habit. But in fact … some people do better when they’re more ambitious. Sometimes, counter-intuitively, it’s easier to make a major change than a minor change. When a habit is changing very gradually, we may lose interest, give way under stress, or dismiss the change as insignificant. A big transformation creates excitement and energy and a sense of progress, and that helps to create a habit."
I am a “big change” person. (Apparently so is Steve Jobs, because that blog post goes on to quote him as having said, “I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why.” I can be like Steve Jobs plz?) And I like that about myself. Dramatic and sudden changes are exciting…that is, until it’s time to REcommit.
Recommitting is not sexy. It’s not revolutionary or exciting. Our all-or-nothing brains don’t like the idea, either. They want to say, “meh, I tried the running thing. It went great for a while but it’s fizzled out, so time to move on to the next thing.” (By the way, it’s kind of hilarious that I’m using running as the example because I loathe running, but I figure it’s a pretty universal example. *shrug*)
But recommitting is also beautifully human. So that’s what I’m doing. And I challenge you to ask yourself right now — what is it that YOU need to recommit to? What micro-adjustments need to be made to your already-fairly-good-but-maybe-fizzling habits?
And if you’re looking for support in getting back on track with habit changes, or starting one in the first place, head on over to my coaching page to learn about working with me 1on1.