Eating Elephants; or The Practice of Habits
A few days ago I alluded to my practice of habits. For as long as I can remember my Dad encouraged us to be constantly working on self-improvement, and I was always eager to be my very best. This post is called Eating Elephants; or The Practice of Habits because of this wise old adage:
When eating an elephant take one bite at a time. ~Creighton Abrams
Eating the Elephant
Me? I was determined to swallow the elephant whole. And so I gagged. Every time.
The great thing about me is I learn from my failures. It only took just over 50 years for me to realize that if I broke the elephant into bit-sized pieces, I could actually manage it.
My biggest problem is that I want change NOW. My list of goals was long, and I wanted to see change in my own lifespan. This is why I felt the elephant needed to be consumed whole. But wisdom has prevailed and I realized – finally – that by consistently tackling the elephant chunk-by-manageable-chunk that my goals were reached quicker and my success was more permanent.
The Habit Menu
The next thing I learned was to break down my big goals into tiny little habits. I created a list of habits to master – sort of a Habit Menu. I had this list of habits that I could tackle step by step, and they were small enough that I could even tackle 2-3 at a time in different areas of my life, bringing me faster results with a lot less failure. I still get a little frustrated that things aren’t going faster and so sometimes I still take on more than I can chew, but failure ensues, so I go back to the last habit I mastered, re-master it, and then take on only one more habit in that area and work it well.
Piggy-Backing the Habit
One I mastered the art of tackling small habits, I then learned to piggy-back habits to create a habit sequence for better results. This means that I joined habits together to create an easy flow. For example, I am working on creating a habit sequence for my morning routine. Here is how it currently looks:
Morning alarm (45 minutes before awake time in order to listen to a brain entrainment track) → Up at 4:30 go downstairs and drink 24 oz of water with lemon essential oil → turn on my computer and quickly scan email for urgent items → Make and drink a protein shake with protein, almond milk and Access Powder → do my daily Bible reading → do a 4 minute workout → do my walking workout → drink 24 oz of water → do my oil pulling while → writing my blog → refresh my mouth by swishing and gargling warm water with peppermint oil and Thieves oil → drink 24 oz of water with peppermint and Thieves oil → do some business training → have breakfast → get dressed → clean/tidy my bedroom → clean or wipe down my ensuite bathroom → do daily household chores → begin my workday.
Each of those habits is chained together. They happen in the same order every morning and the first habit reminds me of the second, which reminds me of the third, and so on. This makes them “mindless habits” that just happen. I have a couple of these chains going on at any one time.
Curing a Bad Habit?
By the way, this system of piggy-backing habits works great for curing a bad habit as well, by the way. Find out what it is you do right before you do your bad habit, and chain that same intitial action to a new habit. Works really well!
Keeping Track of My Habits and My Habit Menu
I use Trello.com to track my daily habits and manage my habit menu. As I master habits in my daily list, I drag new ones to the daily habit list from my habit menu. I have also ordered a couple of Habit Journals to try out (I got a pretty sweet deal when these were in a Kickstarter campaign!)
Taking a Habit Break
One thing I do find is VERY important is to regularly take a habit break. Once a week I have a day where I don’t worry about any of my habits. If I’m working hard at several habits, I usually find a 2-3 day break every couple of months also helps.
So far this is working really well for me, though I still tend to get a little over-ambitious and stress myself out. This just means I have to scroll back, drop a couple of habits, and then add them on more slowly.
How do you manage your habits and/or personal growth? I’d be interested to hear from you. I’m pretty sure we have a lot we can learn from each other.
|Be A Star!
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