I am very much a creature of habit—and, unfortunately, at least with me, that means good habits as well as bad. I have made a real conscious effort over the last couple of years to instil new, upgraded, better-for-me-and-my-health habits into my daily life (more exercise, more sleep, eat a better diet, drink less wine, blah, blah, blah) and have, for the most part, been fairly successful (well, okay, not so much with the wine but there are limits you know . . .)
Anyway, trying to implement these ‘upgrades’ into my life really brought home to me just how ingrained my old habits were (even the ones I didn’t know I had) and how hard it was to change them and then maintain those changes. Even after all the work I have put in along the way I often feel it is still WAY too easy for me to get home, decide I am not going to do any exercise that evening, flop into a chair and just eat cheese for dinner (not with dinner—for dinner)—and then feel really guilty and cross and why-do-I-even-bother-with-myself for doing it. However, and I never ever thought I’d say this out loud, I do have to admit (albeit very, very grudgingly) that those rah-rah, just-keep-at-it, never-been-flabby-or-fat ‘motivators’ actually do seem to have a point (don’t you just want to poke their eyes out?) and, with persistence, it has gradually become easier to ‘get back on the horse’ each time I backslide.
I am also getting much better at not berating myself mercilessly for my slip-ups either, and that has happily been reinforced by a great little book I read recently called Mini Habits (Smaller Habits, Bigger Results) by Steven Guise (see here for more). In a nutshell, the book advocates that anyone wanting to change any of their daily habits should start really, really small—‘stupid small’—so small it is impossible to fail (no failure—no guilt!)
So, if you want to improve your eating habits, just add one lettuce leaf to your meal each day. If you want to get more exercise, start with walking to the end of your drive and back. If you want to write a book (or a blog), write one sentence. And do these mini-habits every.single.day. No exceptions. And if you do miss one day (we are all human after all) never, ever, ever, miss two. And if you continue to do that one stupid-small thing every day you will soon succeed in forming yourself a bright and shiny, brand new (and, in the best of all possible worlds, good-for-you) habit.
Sounds too simple to work doesn’t it? Ah, but the author reasons—chances are you’ll actually start to eat more than one lettuce leaf a day, walk further than the letter box, and start writing paragraphs instead of sentences. (Sigh. One can but hope.)
This reasoning also applies if you want to change a bad habit—so, smoke one less cigarette, say one less swear word, eat one less cube of cheese a day . . .
Mark Twain wrote, ‘Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits’. Well, I’ve been there and that hasn’t worked so now I am going to try being one of the ‘other people’ and do a bit of ‘self reforming’. Care to join me?