It’s been three months now since I started using 30 days to create habits that will help me succeed, which means I’ve got three more habits in my arsenal in the battle that is survival (cue dramatic music). I’m planning to go into more detail on building each habit myself, but in the meantime wanted to share three critically important lessons I’ve learned on habit building in general.
1. Set goals with imperfection in mind
Combatting perfectionism is a classic mantra that the majority of us have had beaten into our psyches as we’ve matured from wee bairn to the strapping individuals we are now. But really, such a dedication to self defeat is just so much detritus produced by our overworked and underachieving society. Make sure to banish this tendency early on. As tempting as it is to berate yourself for not waking up at exactly the time that you want to or binging during your diet and afterwards wallow in a pit of self-loathing, it’s really not getting you any closer to your goals.
Instead, skip the self-hate and whittle your inhuman expectations of yourself down a bit. Instead of waking up at 7AM every day, maybe set a range for yourself to wake up in – say, 7AM – 8AM (or if you’re a real hardass, 7:00AM – 7:30AM). Instead of going full out paleo or vegan, maybe go for a softer version or one that allows for some wiggle room. It’s also worth noting that even if you’ve made a goal to work out for 30 minutes a day, just doing 5 when you’re really struggling still holds benefit.
2. Be decisive early on (because you can always change your mind later)
Starting any project is going to require you to make decisions. This is true whether it’s goal setting on a grand scale, such as setting milestones for your career (What skills do you have and which do you want to focus on honing first?), or whether it’s something simple like baking a cake (What flavor of cake do you want to bake?).
For some of us, certainly for me, making decisions has always been a pretty tough thing to do. I live in possibilities – I love to be standing in that wonderful place where I have hundreds of potential opportunities unrolling at my feet. However, even not doing something is a choice, because life goes on without you. The good news is that choosing is actually easy… because if it turns out to be a choice that you don’t like, you can go ahead and re-decide at a later date.
I’ve done this frequently in the past three months. After establishing my first habit, I thought I wanted to work on the times I woke up and went to bed. It made sense in my mind that this was a foundational habit for me to have for a stable working life. I made different decisions on my bedtime routine, the alarms I used, the times I woke up, all to realize that maybe I just wasn’t ready to establish this habit. So, I approached my habit building from a different angle and chose a different habit that I thought would help me out. And it worked – but more on that in upcoming posts.
3. You may have to dedicate yourself to one habit – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else
So, I’ve got to tread lightly here. The point of taking 30 days to develop a habit means that, yes, you are completely dedicated towards making that habit your priority.Tackling one habit at a time is supposed to be a softer, easier way to develop habits for folks that may already be overwhelmed or don’t enjoy living in a self-betterment bootcamp. However, once you start this process, the effects may surprise you.
I was blown away by the deluge of inspiration and new ideas I had during and after the creation of each habit. I was scribbling down ideas like a mad woman, started up a book group and a religious discussion group, and was more social than I had been in ages. It was like opening the floodgates – I had given my imagination permission to romp around, because I knew I was on track in my habit building.
In other words, my advice here is really to just relax and enjoy the process. If you start feeling more productive and inspired, feel free to capitalize on it – but don’t bully yourself. Starting and finishing projects here and there is fine. You’re experimenting – and you’re already doing your homework anyway.
That’s it! Those are my big three reflections so far. I’m sure that I’ll stumble upon more as I go. Have any of you started 30 day challenges? I’ve seen many authors writing about this sort of experiment and would love to hear if anyone has any similar experiences. 🙂