Good Habits Make Good Days Happen

(Read in :035)“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”~Aristotle

I’m shifting gears again and I’m super excited! It’s time for some new habits! I love change and fresh starts and spring is the perfect time for it! I’ve started a new part-time job with a schedule that’s different than what I’ve been doing. My days will start earlier and last longer that what I’ve been used to and I’ll work more hours. I’m happy to say the great things about it far outweigh the challenges.  This old dog will have to learn some new tricks but for me, that creates energy!

In fact, the subject of habits is one of my favorites and I’ve written about it almost as much as I’ve read about it! There’s  nothing that makes our life happier than good habits. Why? Because it makes doing the next right thing so much easier! Maintaining good habits simplifies almost everything we do because we waste no energy thinking, “should I do this or not?”

The experts agree on the importance of habits

In his latest book, Resisting Happiness, author Matthew Kelly calls good habits the secret to overcoming resistance. He has studied the best of the best for years. Business leaders, high achieving sports figures, and saints. Every one of them has achieved greatness in large part because they have better habits than the rest of the herd!

I highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book about habits, Better Than Before. Rubin digs a lot deeper into how each of us handles the issue of habits. Some of us strongly resist it because we think it stifles our creativity. Best of all, she has the workarounds we need to make good habits a part of our everyday life.

The granddaddy of all is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. His unique point is the power of “keystone habits.” These particular habits create positive momentum and have a way of spilling over into other areas of life because they build confidence, will power and an awareness of just how much is possible.

It’s a problem as old as Methuselah

You’ve probably heard the expression “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  It seems to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, somewhere around the year 1150. That tells me humans have been perplexed by it for centuries!

The phrase is a warning about our failure to take action. Maybe it’s procrastination, laziness or some other character flaw, but whatever the reason, it’s meant to scold us and remind us that a good intention is meaningless unless followed through. (Personally, I think it’s a bit harsh.)

Habits I need work on

Good habits start with simple, small changes. A few baby steps will get me going in the right direction and they’re all you need to get started, too! My new mornings will require that I get to bed earlier! Simple, right? Well, I have to work on this because it’s one of those keystone habits I mentioned.  I have fallen into the habit of staying up way too late! The positive changes will be noticeable in my energy, my mood and my ability to focus!

Planning ahead is vital no matter what we want to accomplish and a little push is all we need! Build in some nudges! Richard Thaler offers lots of tips for making change less stressful in his excellent book Nudge. He describes what is called “choice architecture”, a fancy term for simply making things handier!

I can pack my lunch the night before. Then, I won’t be tempted to run out for fast food when I’m starving at noon. I can choose what to wear the next day so I can save time getting ready. When I do I won’t be surprised by a missing button or a broken zipper. And, if I have a “launch pad” where I keep my purse and briefcase ready to go, mornings will be a snap!

It’s easier than we think to make great progress when we make even small changes in our habits. Those changes are “easy to do and easy not to do”,  but big improvements happen when we get intentional about making good choices.

“There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

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