Why are the simple things so hard!?!
It’s been said that humans are creatures of habit. If that’s true, then I question my status as a human. There has been a plethora of books written about habits—tiny habits, keystone habits, bad habits, good habits. Yet even with all the words and pages expended, it’s still really hard to quit old habits and start new habits.
Routines are another concept that I’ve never quite internalized. And what are routines but just a series of habits carefully collected and curated.
Somewhat by choice and somewhat by circumstance, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a routine that I could I cling to. Most of the time it serves me well, and then there are times when my lack of structure leaves me feeling a little unhinged. This is one of those times.
Three weeks ago, my husband Andrew and I relocated to Berkshire County in Massachusetts, and for all the excitement of finally being homeowners and starting fresh someplace new, the whole experience has left me feeling untethered.
I’m not working yet, so there’s no reason to jump out of bed in the morning or get showered and dressed in a timely fashion. There are things around the house that need attention, but nothing urgent. The laundry and bathrooms can wait. “I’ll have ALL day tomorrow!” I have freelance work to get done, but with no real deadline. Since I have no one else’s schedule to accommodate, getting motivated is a challenge.
A few months ago, I was fantasizing about having no place to be and nothing to do, so it seems unreasonable to complain. That’s not to say I’m not grateful for this window of time to nest and rest before I start working and joining organizations and getting my dance card filled up. It’s just a strange adjustment.
My innate response is to start filling up my schedule and finding ways to keep busy, but I’m doing my best to squash that instinct. Instead, I’m trying to do what I would tell my clients to do, “Start with simple steps and build from there.”
So last week, I decided to go for a walk every morning. Not fast, not far, not with a goal in mind. I just strap on my sneakers and see where my feet take me. One day, I explored the side streets near our house. Another day, I walked downtown and got a coffee.
As I’m writing this, it all sounds so simple, but it is not. Every day is a battle just to get out of my jammies and into my exercise clothes. I’ve done my best to streamline the whole process by having my exercise clothes ready to go on a shelf in the closet, so there is no decision making. I already know I’m going to list the NPR’s Up First and the New York Times’ The Daily, so no need to dilly dally trying to find a podcast. There’s is absolutely nothing complicated about this task.
I even have tangible results. Each time I get back home, I’m more inclined to get in the shower and get dressed. (What a concept!) With that done, I’m a little more motivated to work on my laptop or do some chores. Who knew?
And yet, it requires UN-level of internal diplomacy to talk myself into the walk every morning. There’s a quote from Bojack Horseman that I love:
Let’s be honest. None of what I’m talking about is unique or groundbreaking. It’s just a reminder to you and myself that habits are hard to create and break. It takes time, patience and persistence.
Here are a few tips I’m keeping in mind as I work on my new habits and routine: Start slow. The more incremental you can be, the more likely you’ll develop a sustainable behavioral change. Think of it like saving money. It’s great to be able to set aside $1000 of unexpected income, but what will get you to retirement is the $50 every week or every month that you consistently save.
Resource – Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg
Be intentional. Do some soul searching and really get clear on what you want to accomplish with this new habit. How will it make your life better? Is it going to be worth the commitment?
Resource - The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg Language is powerful. How you talk to yourself (and others) matters. The words you use will help or hinder your progress, so choose them wisely. What is the first thing you say to yourself in the morning? When you are feeling resistance or you miss a day, how do you talk to yourself?
Resource - Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza Find accountability: Having supportive (non-judgmental) accountability can be a huge help in staying on track and picking yourself back up when you stumble. I just downloaded an app called Habit Tracker, so I can specify which habits I’m working on and keep a tally of how often I do them.
Resource - Best habit tracking apps of 2022