Taking off a pair of shoes.
Let’s backtrack some…
Let’s say you want to start a new habit. For instance, you decide you will read ten pages of a book every day. As good as your intentions, though, you miss day one. Okay, so you’ll start the next day, and you succeed. But then, the day after that, you fall off the wagon again. It’s not that you didn’t want to follow through. You may have even planned to follow through, and given yourself a time and place. You even laid out your book on the bedstand alongside your reading lamp. You may have started your day saying, “Today, I will read ten pages of Winnie The Pooh Talks about Success,” or whatever that book title may be that I saw while passing a Little Free Library in the snow. Things just got in the way. You were tired and fell asleep. The dog wanted to go for a walk. Something little happen, or a lot of little things happened, and reading became second in importance to your other responsibilities.
So then, where do I get off saying forming a habit can be easy?
You see, I was a graduate student. I read dental material up the yin yang – and I am now questioning entirely where that saying came from, but that’s a post for another day. But I hadn’t read a book, like a real book club worthy book, in almost six years – the time it takes to get a degree in dental medicine and a certificate in pediatric dentistry. I focused so much of my effort on teeth, I didn’t have energy or space enough for anything else reading-wise in my life. So, as the example above suggested, I set out to read ten pages every day.
And it wasn’t easy. I love books. AND, I’m the kind of person who takes awhile to catch up on sleep from grad school, so I was falling asleep every time I opened a book. For someone who has trouble falling asleep at night, I seemed to have found my sleeping trick. But that didn’t resolve the reading habit; it didn’t get me into the new mode of reading daily.
Until I stumbled upon the secret: reading a book was as easy as taking off my shoes. Literally.
I decided one day that the minute I took off my shoes upon arriving home, I would read my ten pages. It was still early enough that I wouldn’t fall asleep and a routine I could rely on every day. There’s not a single day that I don’t take off my shoes at some point. Even when I am home all day, I take the dogs out and BOOM, have opportunity to put on and take off my shoes. So even when I am home all day, I, too, have opportunity to read my ten pages.
By simply identifying a habit I ALREADY am doing, and linking it to a habit I wanted to establish, I made the new habit that much more doable. And I made myself that much more accountable. Taking off my shoes, I was ‘triggered’ to open a book. Daily.
And simple as that – with a little bit of mental fortitude for the first week or two – a new, healthy habit was formed.
What is a habit you already do daily? Brushing your teeth? Getting the mail? Eating dinner? What’s a habit you would like to establish? Let’s link the two and transform your life!