Mastering Your Habits

[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]T[/mk_dropcaps]his time of year always gets me in a reflective state of mind. I like to look back to see how much has changed. What victories I’ve had.  What defeats I’ve faced and how I handled them.  I take the time to dream again.  To pray and seek God on what it is He wants to do in and through me and my family in the next year.  One of my favorite things to do is to seek God for a theme for a year.  One word that I can take and focus on in all areas of life: spiritual, physical, relational, financial, intellectual, etc.. In this process there inevitably is one area that comes to the surface that the Lord highlights to focus on first. More often than not, that is the area that I have developed some faulty habits.  That is why I think there is this desire to make resolutions.  Reflections make us most aware of what we are dissatisfied with.  Why that is is a whole other post for some other time. Yet I think even if we don’t say we make resolutions we all see more clearly the gap between where we are today and where we would like to be.  Instead of sulking or becoming so frustrated we give up I think there are some key mindset shifts we can make to set us up for success in making the necessary changes to help get us closer to our dreams and destiny.

Things don’t change unless we change first.  It starts in our thinking and these are 5 key mindsets that help me in the process of developing healthy habits.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Baby steps over BIG leaps:[/mk_blockquote]

“We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in 10 years.”- Greg McKeown Author of Essentialism. I think it the belief we can change everything in one day that sets us up for failure.  After listening to Greg McKeown share on an EntreLeadership podcast I was struck with how profound this wisdom is.  As a recovering “perform-aholic” myself, when I would set out to change in a certain arena I’d go about it with an all or nothing approach.  Only to end up frustrated and back where I started a week later.  Why?  Not because the desire to change had left, but because I couldn’t sustain the changes I was trying to make.  I was going for the Big leap versus the baby step approach.  

With how fast paced our culture is it is no wonder we think the Big Leap will be successful!  We want results yesterday, forgetting that excellence and long term and lasting results take time.  We have to allow our mind, body and spirit to catch up to the changes and all be on the same page.  We can’t think by forcing a lot of physical change in a short period of time we can jump ahead to our transformation.  A perfect biblical example is that of Israel when Moses led them out of bondage.  

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Awareness:  [/mk_blockquote]

What are your reactions to the everyday routine? Being a student of your own behaviors is a key to lasting change.  We end up in habits we don’t like because we have become blind to our default reactions to specific situations.  Awareness is the beginning of change and thus is a key mindset to have when forming new habits.  WARNING: You can’t be clearly aware alone. Blind spots are just that to us blind spots. We need the counsel of many different and trusted people to see where we need to focus our efforts first. The thing is Awareness requires we ask the hard questions. It is the why behind our actions that we can easily avoid answering, unless we want to make changes.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Accountability:[/mk_blockquote]

While awareness is the starting point and where we identify what direction to go first, accountability is where we have the check in points to see we are taking baby steps.  This requires others as well, and ideally are those who are genuinely invested in your growth.   I find accountability works best when it is a two way street.  You’re both holding each other to the commitments you’ve made.  There isn’t judgement when progress has stalled out, but a desire to get in and figure out why it happened.  You want someone to hold you accountable that you value their insights and who is solution oriented.  Someone you easily can chat with to discover a solution to your sticking point.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Fix it, don’t trash it:  [/mk_blockquote]

Lets face it.  In this era, we’d much rather throw out what isn’t working then take the time to fix it.  We try to treat our habits like this, but you can’t throw away pathways built in your brain that you have been building for years. When we desire change it isn’t trying to replace an old bad habit, but through increasing awareness taking the bad habit and gradually modifying it into one that is healthy.  

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say you have a bad habit of eating in front of the TV at night and staying up WAY too late when you’re stressed. The trigger is stress, and the reward is the little high you get from food.   Instead of trying to avoid that behavior and forcing yourself to go to bed earlier (which likely won't work if your body is used to going to bed late). You decide to make small little changes over a period of time.  First you start with setting a timer for the TV so it turns off at a reasonable time (which may be just 15 min earlier than your regular limit).  You gradually shorten your time week by week until you only get 30 min of TV time under stress.  In this process you start to limit the portions of the foods you get to eat.  You then gradually replace them with healthier options, until finally you no longer need the extra snack every time.   

Get the picture?!  It’s baby step small changes instead of an all or nothing approach.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]Remember WHY![/mk_blockquote]

Finally, the one mindset that the rest hinge on to keep you in the process is developing a habit of reminding yourself why you’re taking the effort for change in the first place.  Ideally it is a daily reset going back to the BIG picture.  You remind yourself of your desired destination, remembering what the efforts of today are bringing you one step closer too.  This could be the one word I mentioned earlier, it could be an image/vision board, it could even been a couple sentences that you have as a vision statement.  Whatever it is, it is the compass you check daily to ensure you’re on course.  IT is also the fuel in the tank of your self control to keep you on task even when your flesh doesn’t want to.  If we don't constantly and consistently remind ourselves why we are spending energy to change, we will stop doing it.

I hope these shifts in mindset encourage you that you are farther along in the process than you thought. It isn’t that we reach our destination as fast as possible, but who we become in the journey that really matters.  People are watching you.  You are setting a standard for culture around you.  Is it one that raises the bar and draws others to want to know your “it factor”?  Or is it one that people use as an example of what not to do?  It isn’t about being perfect, but persevering to one day at a time becoming a better version of the divine creation God made us to be.

Please share below what key is the one that carries the most impact for you in the stage of the journey you’re in. We are in this together!