This is an article about habits. Not light bulbs. The answer to the light bulb question is; “one at a time.”
How many habits can you change at a time? The answer is; as many as you want… however, how many habits do you want to change to have a powerful long term impact on your life? That is a far better question to answer.
What I see time and time again is that people get all excited with their newly inspired dreams and so they sit down and write a huge long list of all the things they need to change in order to succeed. Then they begin on this changed lifestyle and when they bump into a challenge or two and feel overwhelmed the first thing to go flying out the window are their newly formed habits. That is when the despondency kicks in and they wonder why they are not getting anywhere.
There is a much better strategy for changing habits so that you get more of what you want and feel successful along the way.
The Forest AND The Trees
Have you ever heard the saying “unable to see the forest for the trees”? It implies being unable to see the big picture or overview through all the detail. Seeing the forest is a great way to remember your motivators for doing what you do. However if all you ever do is sit there envisioning your big picture you may be accused of day dreaming. Some people get into overwhelm at the thought of seeing all the change that is required to get from A to Z.
The big picture person needs to see the trees just as equally. The everyday actions that are needed to obtain the outcome. Then there are the detailed people that can get so caught up in getting it right and having it be perfect that they get stuck in analysis paralysis. They can become bored and forget why they are doing what they are doing, losing sight of the bigger vision.
Holding both views of your plan is the most powerful way to success. Looking both at your big vision goal and your daily ongoing actions is the way to create a relationship between what you are doing right now and where it is leading you to.
High Motivation Vs Low Motivation
The more specific your big picture goals are the greater the ability to be motivated by the vision. How you want to feel is one of the most powerful motivators for a big dream. The desired feeling is what will help to motivate your actions.
If you have vague dreams and goals it is easy for them to get lost in a cloud of generalisation. Having your goals align with your value system adds to the level of motivation because it creates ease. You do not need to argue with yourself about compromising your integrity when you align your goals with your values and so the resistance is diminished by up to 80% by the use of emotional slipstreaming.
Easy Vs Hard
With your daily habit forming, it is great to start with easy actions to begin with. Starting with your skill set right now you can begin taking action and learning new skills along the way. This helps you to not blow your overwhelm fuse. For example; if you wanted to learn how to scuba dive, the diving instructor does not just kit you up and throw you into the ocean to work it out. You start on land with getting to know your equipment and then you practice in the swimming pool or shallow area of water under supervision.
If you start training for a marathon and you wake up in the cold of winter and have to go and find your training clothes, your motivation can fly out the window for that instance and you could lie there dreaming about marathons instead of training for one. So a great way to support ease would be to have all your training gear at the end of your bed ready to put on. If your training requires you to leave the house early and drive somewhere, then ease would be to make sure you put petrol in the car the night before.
Instead of taking yourself off for 10 days of Vipassana meditation at an Ashram once in a blue moon, how about you start with setting your alarm to remind you every hour to stop and take 10 deep mindful breaths. If you want to write a book, then you could start by setting a goal to write 100 words a day. Just by doing simple things to support your desired new habit, you will create more and more ease and opportunity to succeed.
Whatever it is that you do, starting with easy can be a great warm up and reminder that you can create long term change. So with your new habits, look to see what is the easiest entry point for creating success.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
The other part of that story of ease is the part about hard. Say you are learning to sky dive. You have done all the preparation work and trained and practiced and unfolded and folded your parachute. You feel confident on the ground about all the skills needed to be a skydiver. Once you get up in the air and they open the door, you can do one of two things; you can jump, or you can stay in the aircraft. Jumping may seem like the hardest thing to do, however you cannot jump one step at a time. So the toing and froing between jumping and not jumping based on your nerves is really the hard part. Committing and taking decisive action, i.e.; jumping is the only way to become a sky diver. Anything less than that and you are really just a parachute folder.
Your perception of hard is not always where the real hard is. It is the starting and stopping of creating long term habits that support your dreams that is the hard part.
Over 50% of people who start something new and then lose sight of their reason for doing it, or overstretch themselves to overwhelm, will revert back to old habits in a more detrimental way. An example is when people choose to lose weight by eating healthy food and part of that is that they decide to stop eating their favourite brand of chocolate chip cookies. Then an upset comes along and they start doubting their dreams and their ability. They lose sight of what it is that they are wanting to achieve. They have a bad time, become despondent and the negative thoughts start kicking in. These people are then more likely to eat the chocolate chip cookies. But not only do they eat them, they eat 50% more of them than they used to eat, thus causing a slingshot reversal in habit forming that takes people more into unsupportive actions.
Hang Where the Energy is
The number one way to form new habits is to place yourself in an environment that supports your new habits. If you want to be a writer, join a writers group. If you want to get fit, organise to go for walks with a friend or join the gym. If you want to create new financial habits, hang around people that are having a different conversation about money and the global financial climate. If you want to practice your guitar every day, set up a skype practice session with a fellow guitarist so you have to be accountable to showing up. If you want to change your mindset and your results then get along to groups that want to see you stretch and grow and expand and that inspire you to continue on the path of your dreams. Create structures or step into places and spaces created especially for your new habit to be supported, encouraged, and down right celebrated.