How to Make a New Habit Stick
September feels like a mini-January to me. I love how the new school year is a fresh start for everybody: new notepads and pencils for the kids, new classrooms and schedules, and new resolutions for me to be better organized and prepared for each day.
Maybe it’s the same for you. You drop the kids off at preschool and daycare and you're ready for action. You have the whole morning mapped out: expedited errands, a workout, and an organized effort to finally get the house in shape.
But then life gets in the way. One of your children gets sick and you can't work out. You start off with a lot of energy to tackle the household mess but, after a week, it doesn't seem like you're making any progress, get discouraged, and stop. This is a pattern for many people: starting off with big goals and big enthusiasm, but after a few weeks in, they're back in the same habits as before. Not following the new calendar app, not organizing the flood of papers that come from school, not going to the gym, going for a walk, or attending the classes they signed up to take.
Why is it so hard to build a new habit – and so easy to stay stuck in an old one?
Research shows that our brains are wired for falling back into old habits, much like a wheel finding a well-worn groove in the road.
It’s not impossible to build new habits, it takes awareness and effort – a few resources that might be hard to find if you’re a mom without a lot of extra resources to spare. Here are a few tips to make it easier:
Find your resistance
If you’re trying to build a new habit and getting stuck, find your resistance. What are the stories you’re telling yourself for not doing what you originally were so motivated to do? It’s too hard. I’m too tired. I should be doing (insert something else that sounds a lot more important here).
Over the summer, I was motivated to get up early and head outside for a morning walk before the rest of my family woke up. Lately though, I’ve been more likely to roll over in bed than head outside. When I took a look at my resistance, I realized I don't want to go outside because it’s now dark at my walk time when it wasn't over the summer. Now that I'm aware of this piece of information, I can work on creating a solution. (Stayed tuned.)
Unharness your inner power
Use the power of visualization – not by imagining the end result but by picturing yourself doing the small steps along the way. A study from UCLA showed that students were more successful on tests if they imagined themselves developing and following good study habits, rather than if they pictured receiving a good grade at the end of the semester.
So if your goal is to have a well-organized home, you’ll want to imagine yourself accomplishing the steps involved in getting to what you desire. Picture yourself spending 15 minutes every day working on one part of your home, or putting the paperwork away to keep your home neat, not the final “reveal,” which may be months and months away.
Change what doesn’t work
Many people try to solve an old problem using the same methods they’ve tried before. Sometimes what you need is more than another appointment book, membership at the gym, or yet another resolution. What you might need are new ideas, new tools, or someone to keep you accountable and motivated so you can keep moving toward your goal.
You might need some new tools and stronger resources if …
• Your house is full of half-finished projects because you find yourself giving up on your goals only a few weeks after setting them,
• You lose motivation for exercise shortly after starting a new program,
• You sacrifice the time you set aside to do creative projects and instead fill your time with what’s required and feels more important,
• When you stop working toward a goal, it makes you feel bad about yourself, even if it’s just a little.
Let me help. I offer a free call to help you create new ideas for making your goals a reality, not another reason for feeling like you’ve failed. To start the conversation, send me an email. I'd love to hear from you.
Kathleen Ann Harper is the author of The Well-Crafted Mom and a certified life coach for moms. She works with moms who know they have everything they ever wanted, yet still feel like there’s something big missing. Through one-on-one sessions, group programs, and retreats, Kathleen helps moms find the time and energy to craft a life that includes creativity and joy. You can purchase The Well-Crafted Mom on Amazon by clicking here.
I'm a mother of two incredible boys, wife to Bill White of Happy Baby Signs, author of the books The Well-Crafted Mom and Signs of a Happy Baby, and an intuitive life coach. I like to blog about my adventures with my family and the life lessons I'm learning along the way. I hope you'll join me on this journey.
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