Do your habits undermine or support your dreams?

I was struck by a comment on yesterday’s post by Cindy:

“My partner has been talking about his ‘book’ for over a year now and I don’t think he is past the outline. I know that he has told himself (and me) that he was going to do something like this before, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

How many of us are or have been in the same situation? Whether it is writing a book, going back to college, changing careers, or any dream that seems too big to tackle all at once, we often don’t know where to begin. Or we are scared out of our minds to do it for real. After all, what if we fail? What if we make a fool out of ourselves?

What if the idea of the dream is safer, easier, and more comfortable than making it a reality?

And what if, regardless of how much we want to pursue that dream, our own safe, easy, and comfortable habits perpetuate the same old same old, day after day, without our being aware of it?

That’s the crux of what I’ve realized lately: that I have some habits that undermine rather than support my writing goals, and I will need to go through an uncomfortable period of establishing some new habits in order to reach the goals that are most important to me.

In 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick, Scott Young offers very good suggestions for establishing new habits. Here are his first three:

1. Commit to Thirty Days – Three to four weeks is all the time you need to make a habit automatic. If you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a good block of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar.

2. Make it Daily – Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. If you want to start exercising, go to the gym every day for your first thirty days. Going a couple times a week will make it harder to form the habit. Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits.

3. Start Simple – Don’t try to completely change your life in one day. It is easy to get over-motivated and take on too much. If you wanted to study two hours a day, first make the habit to go for thirty minutes and build on that.

Today was my second day in a row of writing for an hour before going online. It still doesn’t feel natural, and I found myself looking at the time on my computer during the last half an hour, but I am committed to doing this for 30 days, and reporting back here to let you know if it does, indeed, become automatic. There are many other habits I should probably change as well, but I will follow Young’s advice and start small, rather than risk feeling overwhelmed and giving up before the habits are in place.

Young’s “18 Tricks” remind me of FlyLady’s Beginner BabySteps (which I’ve never followed for their intended purpose – cleaning the house – but which have inspired me in many other areas of my life):

“The voices that you hear in your head keep telling you that you are behind and you have to get it all done now! We are going to quiet those negative voices that are beating you up constantly and replace with a loving gentle voice that tells you that you are not behind and you can do this one BabyStep at a time!” ~

Is there a dream or long-term goal you have been putting off for a very long time? What is one new habit you can establish in the next 30 days that will make it more likely to make that dream a reality?

6 thoughts on “Do your habits undermine or support your dreams?

  1. What a great post, Lisa! And terrific ideas for those of us who are pulling themselves in too many directions. One hour dedicated to any work in progress would be helpful for me.
    I am going to give it a try. I’ll let you know.

    • Michelle, thank you! Please do let me know how it goes. I am definitely feeling my way through this period right now, using trial and error to see what works.

  2. I agree with doing a little bit every day. When I wanted to find some time to do daily yoga practice, I started with just ten minutes day, but stuck to it no matter what. Somehow the time just crept up, and now I often do half an hour, but always ten minutes.

    If I had started by aiming to do half an hour, I would have given up within a week, I am sure!

    Ten minutes is a really manageable amount of time for any new habit.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, and congratulations on your yoga habit! I did something similar several years ago with morning exercises, starting with just ten heel raises, and very slowly (over a couple of years) building up to about 5 minutes of simple strength exercises each morning (exercise is not my passion area, lol).

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