Why Habits Make the World Go 'Round

August 10, 2018

Habits are the driving force in my life. That sounds kind of extreme but in the transition to college and being substantially more independent, establishing and maintaining habits made everything simple. Last week, I finished Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before and learned everything I wanted to know about forming and keeping habits. Since I'm a woman of the people, I'm going to save you the trouble of reading the book and share the most important, life-changing deets.


Self Knowledge

The first, and debatably most important, step in establishing a habit is figuring what works best for you. I know, it sounds easy but it takes reflection, self-awareness, and introspection. Rubin identifies four tendencies, or personality profiles that determine human nature. The tendencies are based on our reactions to expectations from ourselves and others. I'm 100% an upholder; I don't question anything and I hate to let people down - including myself. Figuring out which of the four tendencies you are is key to forming successful and efficient habits and all it takes is a couple minutes and Google. 

Self-knowledge also includes a few distinctions that, to be honest, are fun to think about: are you an early bird or a night owl, do you prefer familiarity or would you rather enjoy something new, are you an opener or a finisher?

Habit Formation

There are steps to forming a habit: monitoring, foundation, scheduling, and accountability. 

Monitoring can be daunting, not only because it's the first step, but because it requires work. By setting a specific goal and actively tracking your progress it's easy to take steps in the right direction. 

Foundation. The first few times you start a habit are crucial because you're setting the precedent for every other time. So, no shortcuts and don't mistakenly attach a bad habit to you're new good one; establish a solid foundation. 

Scheduling. Timing can be key to forming a good habit. By choosing a specific time for a recurring habit, the clock acts as a trigger. Then, you have no excuses for forgetting or being too busy. 

Accountability. Here's where self-knowledge and the four tendencies are important. Once you've determined what motivates you, put in place systems to hold you accountable. Whether it's booking a workout class with friends or planning study time with classmates, make it hard to flake out (or you so you don't want to).

Begin

We know it's important to lay a solid foundation, but how do we get started in the first place? One of the easiest ways is to start small. When I started running, I didn't go to the gym and run 5 miles in 30 minutes on the first day (not that I can even do that). I started jogging, then jogging for a couple miles, then running. Some people find it helpful to start at a natural beginning; the first of the month or Monday. The biggest change I've made in my life is going vegan and I started on a Saturday in the middle of May...so do what works for you.

Success

Once you've started, there are numerous tips for making your habits stick. Something that works for me is abstinence. When I went vegan, I didn't slowly ween myself off of meat, then dairy. I woke up and quit everything cold turkey. I find it much easier to give something up altogether than try moderation. but not everyone's like me and that's ok.

Convenience. People who have trouble with keeping themselves accountable find this tip especially important. Orange Theory is one of my favorite ways to workout and the classes are always full because they make it convenient. Orange Theory gyms are usually in shopping centers with grocery stores and other places frequented by busy moms, therefore a lot of moms (especially the ones who in my neighborhood). This morning I was discussing Ulta vs. Sephora with my mom (I'm team Sephora), and she explained that she prefers Ulta because they have standalone stores and she doesn't have to go into the mall which is where our nearest Sephora is. People are all about convenience, so don't be afraid to make it easy for yourself.

Safeguarding. One slip doesn't have to be a fall. Just because you miss a workout or eat McDonald's doesn't mean you have to give up your habit altogether (which can be so easy). Steady yourself and move on. Similarly, avoid loopholes and conditions. None of that "I went hard at the gym yesterday so I'll just go on a quick walk today" or "I saved money by not buying that smoothies so I can splurge on lunch". Excuses are lame and their one of the easiest ways to trick yourself out of succeeding. I'm not saying don't reward yourself, treat yo'self as much as you like, but not with the thing you're trying to avoid.

Distractions. Some we avoid and some we seek out. When I want to keep going on the treadmill, I focus on planning my day or, if I'm really bored, spelling out random words while I run. Before I know it, 3 more minutes have passed and I'm that much closer to the end of my workout. I love this distraction. But, I've been trying to write this post for 2 days now and I keep getting distracted by Solitaire, so I ultimately had to delete the app from my computer (it was taking up way too much time in my life). Identifying positive and negative distractions is a great way to allow yourself some reprieve while staying productive.

Pairing. I feel like errands are a huge waste of time, so I always put them off until I have to do them all in one day (now that I think about, that's probably why I feel like they're a waste of time). Whenever I have something that needs to be done, I pair it with something I want to do. Whenever I have a day or errands, I listen to a podcast in the car so that I'm learning and doing something I enjoy while getting done menial tasks like picking up the dry cleaning. Yesterday, I needed to get a pair of pants hemmed, so I purposefully went to play tennis at the courts near the tailor so I had no excuse not to go. Try it, it'll change your life.


Some people hate habits because they feel like their planning their life and taking out all the spontaneity. If you can't tell, I'm a huge habit girl. I truly believe that habits make my world go 'round. If I haven't sold you on habits yet, three-time Olympian Jim Ryun says "Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going".

Are there any habits that you're trying to implement, or that you think I should? Leave a comment letting me know. I'm a huge morning person, so my morning routine of waking early, workout out, making a smoothie, and listening to a podcast before I start my day is huge. xx, Lauren

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