Habit Forming

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to maintain balance, health and sanity during this especially busy time of year. I have always believed that the more on my plate and my mind, the more critical it is to build practices that help me stay focused, clear and strong. Essential to building such practices is leveraging the power of habits. Humans go through much of our days relying on long-standing practices, thinking, and actions. By harnessing the power of habits, we can often achieve goals that are a stretch for us. I’d like to share some of the ways that I’ve been exploring lately, to form new habits that instill fresh ways of thinking and behaviors into my life.

I believe that it is essential to figure out the “why” that will fuel a change in behavior or thinking. Our “why” should be as visionary and large as possible, and reflect an overarching goal or intention. For example, I want to create a healthy lifestyle (not just lose weight, manage stress or stop eating meat; those are just components of my big “why.”) I sought out a buddy, someone to share tips, ideas, challenges and wins. Tell others what you are up to, so they can support you and not inadvertently sabotage your efforts. I have weekly check-in’s around my new habits and milestones with a friend with whom I can be totally honest. It is fun to have someone to affirm my progress as I create new habits. Even sharing the slip-ups motivates me to figure out what went wrong so that I can improve the next week.

Along the way, I’ve learned some tips specifically on building new habits. I have found that when I link a new behavior with one already in place, it can be very powerful. For example, I enjoy talking with a wise friend, so we often schedule a “walk and talk” so we can both get exercise while catching up. For decades I have done yoga; now I incorporate a new pose each week that forces me to get stronger. I use existing habits as cues to weave new habits into my day. For example, when I brush my teeth I also floss; when I cook dinner I talk with Jim about our work day; when I call my family I fold the laundry. I make substitutions for healthier choices. I usually drink tea instead of coffee; eat a calcium chew instead of chocolate; chase my dog around the house instead of collapse on the sofa. At work, you can also practice substitution. Swap a demand with a question. Practice listening instead of talking. Create a team with some of the new folks instead of the ones you already know well. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Come from yes instead of no, as your default response.

Another change that is making a difference in my quest for a healthier lifestyle is to break things down into small pieces. For example, I have found it’s easier to implement a habit of 15 minutes on my stationary bike scattered throughout the day instead of trying to carve out 45 minutes all at once. I convince myself that I can modify my eating habits for just one day at a time, instead of making a promise to live the rest of my days eating only salads and no desserts.

I’ll let you know how I do in this effort. I’m determined to succeed and build new, healthier habits into my life. If I can support you in your own design of new habits, please call.

Warm regards,
Sharon Keys Seal

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