Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Importance of Habits

Ever since January 1, at "New Year's Resolution" time, I've been mulling over the interrelation between goals and habits.  It seems to me that goals, even when a person is highly motivated, rarely come to fruition unless habits are cultivated that consistently move a person in the direction of his goals or dreams.

For example, I have had the habit of doing about ten minutes of flexibility exercises every morning ever since I was about fifteen years old.  It has become such a habit that I  do it when I am on the road, in a hotel or even in a stranger's house.  When I absolutely can't do it, like just after surgery last month, I have an internal breakdown, sort of like Mr. Monk or Sheldon Cooper, except I can control the external part.  When people ask me what my "secret" is...why I seem a lot younger than I actually am, I give these flexibility exercises almost complete credit..in addition to God's blessings and good genes!

In the summertime, I also have developed a habit of going running (or, in my case, walking fast while bouncing up and down)...In the summer, this has become such a habit that it is a rare day that passes without my getting exercise.  However, when the summer passes, and there isn't enough light to run early in the morning, my habit has to shift.  Every year, I vow that I will continue to run sometime in the afternoon, but that has always turned out to be too vague.  "Sometime in the afternoon" doesn't become a habit and I typically put on a good ten pounds over the winter as a result of not following through.

Similarly, concerning healthy eating, I have a habit of eating a nutritious breakfast of cereal and fruit, having a mid-morning snack of granola and/or yogurt, and eating a light, healthy lunch of soup or salad.  Then, starting about 3:00, I rampage through the kitchen eating every thing isn't nailed down.

Why do I do this?  Why do I sabotage everything else I do that is healthy for me by continuing this behavior?  It is because our supper hour has become unpredictable, for reasons having to do with my husband's work, and sometimes my own work interferes, too.  Without a clear-cut supper hour, I haven't been able to establish a healthy afternoon snacking ritual...hence the uncontrolled eating between 3 and supper.

This blog is another example. When I first started, I decided to form a habit of writing it once a week when I first get up on Sundays.  I did this for awhile, but it hadn't been long enough to really create a habit.  Then one Sunday I was on the road...and another Sunday we had company over...and another Sunday I decided I needed to get out and garden...you get the picture.  At some point, my weekly blog has apparently become a bi-yearly blog.   So the question now is,  will my motivation be high enough to re-create a habit that will lead to regularity?  Or will this be the last one you see for another six months?

Frankly, I don't know!  What I do know is that goals are very important in order to keep your life moving in the direction you want it to go.  They are important for adults and they are just as important for your teenagers as they move towards their adult lives.  I discuss this quite a bit in a couple of my cds, and urge parents to think through (and write down) their goals for their children in the following areas:  values, habits, attitudes, skills, talents, and knowledge.  As the kids get old enough to set their own goals, the homeschooling process should become more and more a collaborative effort.

However, as I repeatedly teach myself through my own actions,  goals have little chance of being achieved unless a plan is created and habits are developed that will consistently provide the mechanism for reaching those goals.  So whether your goal is healthy eating, weight control, preparing for a career, getting out of debt, or purchasing your first house (remember, I am a realtor now...heh,heh)...make sure you create the habits you need to reach your dreams!