Creating new habits? Gah!

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

Making changes in our every day lives seems like a brutal task at imminent failure especially when we have so many changes we’d like to make. January 1st is right around the corner and the urgency to make multiple changes all at once is looming. Parts of us demand dietary shifts, more exercise, consistent sleep, to get off screens, have quality time with the kiddos, improve our relationships, stop drinking or smoking weed. Gah! It can feel downright dictatorial. Then other parts of us whine because it’s just too much to take on.

Years ago my mantra was “Small Changes Equal Big Results.” I’d counsel, “What 1-2 small changes can you absolutely nail this week,? then when those are a habit, move through 1-2 more. Simple ideas like drinking more water by keeping a water bottle at your desk, or add one vegetable to your dinner meal. I’m changing my tune just a little, little bit to “consistency over intensity,” a mantra James Clear coined, that means just by showing up for yourself every day in a specific way, you create a habit. The idea is first we define what kind of person we want the world and ourselves to notice. Then, we create the system – meaning the daily habits – that lead to the outcome of the identity we’ve chosen.

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

Small and consistent beats ambitious and intermittent. Showing up for yourself every day is the key to becoming who you already are deep inside, you just can’t see it yet because it’s covered with layers of internal criticism and judgment. Maybe a little dash of embarrassment and shame, too. Repeating:

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

So start there. Meditate, reflect, journal on who you want to be and make it visible. On paper, in a Note on your iPhone, verbally to friends and loved ones. Let folks know you are growing into your true and authentic self.

After you determine the kind of person you want to be, jot down what it takes to be that person. Start with small, easy-to-maintain shifts. List them out one-by-one. Put these into your online or paper calendar as unbreakable dates with yourself. Let them build over time creating a consistent structure.

“When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.”

All quotes by James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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