When it comes to forming lasting habits, I have not always been successful.
So planning for a new year, for goals that will (or ought to) carry through an entire 365 days has felt daunting to me. Like really, has there ever been one goal that I’ve ticked off or touched on every single day for a whole year? Ever?
THE POWER OF HABIT BOOK
I don’t think so. But, after reading Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” I’m beginning to understand habit work more clearly.
Let me tell you that I don’t normally write book reviews in this space. I share my reviews about books and my whole “book love” journey over on Instagram (@readwithregina) and will probably stick with that. But this book and post are an exception because I’m curious as to what goals people have set for the year and even more importantly, which habits they are going to put into place to make their goals happen.
WHAT ACTUALLY IS A HABIT?
I asked people on Instagram “What habit(s) are you hoping to develop in 2019?” You can peek in the “Q&A highlights” for the answers to my question and my (hopefully helpful) responses.
What I found interesting was that many of the responses sounded very similar to goals; which made me wonder if there was a difference.
According to this book, habits can be viewed as “behavioral patterns that reside within our minds”. Habits are basically decisions that become automatic behaviors. We no longer think about them, we just do them.
Which makes sense then to me why so many of us want to set goals. Because ultimately, we want to change something in ourselves or in our lives. Maybe it’s drinking, spending, eating or watching too much whatever. Or maybe not enough exercising, listening or rest.
Duhigg takes us through research and case studies with individuals, groups and even organizations like Starbucks and Target to show us the power of habits. Let me tell you right now if you do not think Target (and every other establishment you frequent, isn’t tracking your habits, you may need to step away from your smartphone and read this book right now). Your habits are often used to sell you things you may want, but probably don’t need.
And because a habit is a decision on auto-pilot, you’re not really thinking deeply about your spending or experience at places you frequent, landing you in places, situations, work environments and even relationships you may not belong or want to be.
CHANGING A HABIT
This makes a strong case – at least to me – why my habits are worth delving into more deeply.
The author makes it fairly easy to understand his powerful concept palpable through the first section of the book; clearly explaining what a habit is. How habits are formed in loops and through our cravings and desires. Chapter 3 is particularly helpful because it addresses transformation – a relief, right? Because really, we all need to have hope that we can change.
To stop smoking, overspending, gossiping, snacking mindlessly, adding pounds we hadn’t planned to.
It’s clear that who we spend time with (89p), “keystone moments” (100p) and sometimes crisis have an impact on motivating us to change our habits.
The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.
Think about this.
There is some stress, stuck and overwhelm in your life right now. Things you’ve been saying yes to or doing on autopilot without understanding the deeper implications and damage to your life and the lives of those around you.
You have been wanting to do different, experience new and live more fully for awhile, but have not been able to pinpoint what is askew or where to begin.
When making goals, choosing a word or theme for the year or setting intentions, I believe the heart of why we do this is because the things of the past no longer serve us. We’ve been doing and going and “shoulding” because it’s what we’ve always done or what those around us expect us to do. We’ve formed habits that are not good. We’ve become identified by some unhealthy autopilot decisions.
And we’re stuck.
CLAIMING NEW HABITS
To get unstuck and reach our fullest potential, we must believe that we can change.
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of the habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable…”273p
What I wish Duhigg was even more direct and clear about in this part is that it means taking responsibility for the bad, ill-fitting habits we’ve allowed to direct far too much of our paths. I’m guilty. And maybe because I’m hungry for something different in 2019, I’m more quick to accept that I’m complicit in this. And then a step further, is that those of us who proclaim Jesus as Lord have help.
In my quest to give time and attention to things that really matter in 2019 – you can read about the four biggies here – I realize that some of my habits will need to be overhauled.
IN PROCESS – FORMING MY OWN NEW HABIT
So as not to overwhelm myself and snuff out the beautiful margin in my life, I’m currently focused on just one habit: how I use my social media platforms.
In the past, I’ve scrolled and compared and sometimes struggling with depression. It was difficult to remember how God viewed me, how much He loved me, that I am enough. I better understand why I did this now – scrolling without intention had become a habit.
I admit it! I enjoy spending time on Instagram (especially), Facebook and Pinterest. I like engaging with people and challenging some of my thinking. It is essentially another tool I hope to use in order to grow.
A lot of the times in 2018, I was scrolling and posting to prove myself or for validation. It became mindless. Someone I love would be talking to me and get some of my attention, but before even I realized it, they were continuing to speak, but I was staring into a screen. Scrolling…
It was rotting up my insides.
Because essentially in the scrolling, I was allowing my identity to be warped, dissed, misshapen or questioned by the things I was seeing or the lack of likes when I had the courage or boldness to step out and post something authentic to me and what I believed I’d been called to.
“…to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it…” 270p
The catalyst for change must be evaluated. Why do you want to change this habit, I asked myself. And the answer was basically, “because I don’t like who I am when I scroll and post without intention”. I want to be and share the better, more authentic and vulnerable parts of my life with the hope of helping another woman.
I’ve decided that I want to make choices about how I’m showing up on social media again. Rather than allowing it dictate to me how to use it, I’m going to claim new habits (involving training, intentional decision making, requests for accountability, goal setting, etc.) and start making decisions again.
It’s only day four of the new year.
There’s a long stretch on the road ahead, but today I’m choosing to believe that I can change.
Are you with me? Which habit(s) are you deciding to develop this year?