Making a new habit a priority

When you’re working on something you really connect with, you get more done. It’s weird to think that adding something to your “to do” list helps you do more – but it does. When you work on stuff you love:

  • Your energy goes up.
  • Your focus improves.
  • You manage your time better because you want to make sure you have time to get to your good work.
  • You’re more interesting to be around.
  • You feel better.

Quiet, mid-Winter days are a great time to ponder a new habit. Successful new habits start with intent – why do you want to do this?

Then you have to figure out how to make this new habit a priority. Doctor and author Lissa Rankin has a great exercise to help you figure out your priorities. Take a plain piece of paper and draw a stack of circles. Each circle is a core part of who you are. Each is something that makes you tick and makes you happy.

I like to do this thinking first in general. Then I put the stones in order. At the base is stuff that has to be there in order for me to be me.

That bottom rock for me is health. Knowing this helps me prioritize exercise and eating healthy food. The other stones are vital, but without a focus on health, I’m no good! When that stone’s in place, my other stones kick in. These include creativity; connecting with friends, family, and strangers; spirituality; deep learning; doing good work; and doing volunteer work. I don’t get to every stone every day, but when I’m feeling “off,” I look at this stack to see what’s missing.

Once you have your stack, and that may be one rock, or ten, it’s time to take action! Which rock is telling you it needs attention? Focusing on that, what’s one thing you can do to help support that rock? And what’s a baby step you can take to get started?

If you like plans and deadlines, set up a plan that isn’t a huge stretch. You’re starting a new habit and that requires gentleness! If you’re a free-wheeling rebel, just take the first baby step and see where it takes you.

If one of your rocks is about health, can you change one food you eat? Or don’t eat? If you’re trying to eat less, can you use smaller plates?

If your rock says it needs more exercise, can you start by taking a walk? Signing up for an exercise class? Getting a dog to get you outside?

If stress is affecting your health, what’s one change that would make your life simpler? Would getting more sleep help you feel calmer? Is it time to try your first 10 minutes of meditation?

If you have a connection rock that’s calling to you, who can you have a great conversation with this week? Do you have a friend you know and trust that you’ve been out of touch with? Is it time to join a class to make new friends? Or maybe it’s time for a family dinner – a quiet one with no media on! Or maybe your connection needs are BIG. Is there something going on in your city or town where you can be helpful?

The trick is to start small, observe yourself to see how you’re doing, and to celebrate and be grateful when you take the first steps. Warning: Being happy can be habit-forming 🙂

I’ll leave you today with a happy dog who went swimming in the ocean. In January. In Maine. Ocean swimming may be a fundamental rock for Miss Grace. 🙂

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I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!

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