Since I’ve decided that in order to change my life my focus is on changing my habits, as I wrote about in Our Habits Make Us, the question is how. Bad habits just seem to evolve, but good habits are slippery and very hard to get hold of!
One of the great things about living in the age of internet is that it’s relatively easy to find other peoples thoughts on any subject. When I was young, I had to rely on the very limited resources at my local library. If I knew that I book existed, I could ask them to arrange a loan for me – but then I first had to know the name of the book and author. Not all things were better before.
But then again, to many possibilities can be almost as bad as to few. A google-search on “better habits” yields 115 000 000 results (today, in a week probably more). I’ve obviously not read them all… But I’ve read many, and some books on the subject as well. This was before I started blogging and thinking about quoting sources, so I’m not always sure who said what (they often overlap as well). Among the books I’ve read are Gretchen Rubins book “Better than before“, Charles Duhigges “The Power of Habit” and Stephen Guises “Mini Habits” , and I found them very inspiring.
I thought about trying to make a short summary of the best ideas for habit-change, but than I found that somebody already had: James Clear: Habit Guide. Great place to start if you want to know more about the science of habits.
My own reflection after reading all of these (and more) is that eveybody is different. It’s difficult to use somebody elses method straight off. For me, the best way to change anything is to really think it trough:
- Why do I want to change this? In what way will this make my life better? Will I be healthier, will it free up time, will it improve relations…?
To be aware of the why helps me stick to the habit better.
- What exactly do I want to change? How? What actions do I want to do (or stop doing)?
- What approach do I think would work best? Is this something I should add step by step and increase over time, or is it better to jump right in? Is this a habit for everyday, or just for sometimes? The best method for me depends on what I want to change, so the first steps are really important in making me certain what that is exactly.
- How can I make this easier for myself?
– Can I change the environment (make sure what I need is in front and what I should avoid is more difficult)?
– At what time a day/week is this easiest to do for me? Is there already another habit I can evolve to include this?
– What are my possible pitfalls, how can I avoid them or at least make them less severe?
I’m also what Gretchen Rubin calls an Obliger, meaning I’ll find it a lot easier to keep to a habit if I feel accountable to somebody beside myself. So for me, tellling my friends in our happiness-group is an important step, and then reporting back to them every week how I’m doing. Knowing I’ll have to admit to slipping makes me a lot more motivated to not slip up.
I generally choose to focus hard on something for at least one month and then letting it fade in the background, but still keeping an eye on it. And maybe re-focusing on it if I find that I’m not keeping the habit as well as I want to. Until, after some time, the habit is completely set and I no more have to think about it than I think about putting my jacket on when it’s cold outside. It just gets done.
After the first month, when I really try to hold on to the habit 100%, I don’t strive to be perfect. Life is change, and days and weeks are different. When I have less energy I focus on the basics: eat, move, sleep only. And even in my good months, I always compare the new habit not to what I was able to achieve in my focus month, but to what I did before. So doing my new habit 5 days out of 7, or even 3 days out of 7, is still a lot better then 0 days! If I start to feel like it’s getting ut of hand, I can always bring that habit back in focus again.
My main objective is to live a simpler, more joyful life. In 2016, I’ve focused a lot on the “simple” part. How can I make life easier for myself? What are my true needs? I’ve also been working on my energy-levels. Where are my limits, how much can I do and still I keep my energy troughout the day and week? The habits I’ve been focusing on concern sleep (going to bed in time, sleeping better), food (low-carb works best for me, with occacional excursions), not buying unneccesary things (frugality and minimalism) and how I use my time. I’ve worked out a basic schedule for my life that I think will be sustainable. The focus of the year has been to simplify, to reduce all unneccessary things as much as possible.
In 2017 I want to focus more on the “joyful” part. I think I’ll return to most of the subjects I’ve focused on in 2016, but from this different angle. You’re welcome to follow me on this journey, hopefully some of the things I discover will be of use to you as well!