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!


  1. Thank you for the encouragement Mary!
    As a momma who has educated her babes wholly at home through two high school grads, a certification and degree in medical herbology and 2/3 of an AA degree in Early Childhood Ed, I am now floundering! My three youngest are still at home and my two boys both struggle with learning challenges. This has become an area of what feels like Bristol Bay mud to me-the more I move around to try to get out of the mud pit of inconsistency and move toward my goal of training excited, joyful learners the deeper and more fastly I am stuck.
    I am encouraged today to take baby steps toward my goal by being specific and setting achievable steps that can be reached every day and that will form a habit in this area for the boys and me.
    Thank you again!

  2. Just came across your blog via a comment on another site... Just thought I would share that you might not be so ravenous by early afternoon if you include some protein with your breakfast and lunch :) A book called "Trim, Healthy Mama" talks about this in more detail. All the best with whatever you are able to do with your blog. God Bless, D-A :)

  3. "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?" LIke the other commenter, I would like to suggest that you eat a breakfast and lunch protein rich. I used to do the same as you. But instead of eating a "healthy" fruit and cereal breakfast (cereal is not healthy at all) I would eat pancakes, toast and fruit. Once I began eating eggs, cheese, protein loaded homemade granola, or protein smoothie with nuts and coconut oil, I wasn't starving at 3pm any more. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Change your breakfast and lunch menu and you will see that afternoon and supper will not be so hard. :)