I’d never given my habits much thought until one day I was sitting at our cottage feeling very sluggish and unhealthy. In the city, in my regular life, I was able to get up every day before work and follow-though with physical activity before my day started. I felt organized to pack a lunch for myself and my family, plan a healthy dinner, and generally motivated to live a healthy lifestyle. Then on Friday night, we’d pack up and head to our cottage and I would spend two days undoing all the good work I’d done from Monday to Friday. Each weekend it wasn’t uncommon for me to overeat (I had more time to cook decadent meals and do some baking), lay around the house in my pajamas reading, have a beer or glass of wine in the afternoon, and get about 5,000 steps on my FitBit (when my daily average is more like 15,000 steps). I felt so unproductive and out of sorts. Every single weekend. Without a schedule, I had too much time to fill and I filled it with nothing. And it was baffling to me.
Then I realized that I had two sets of habits. My Monday-to-Friday habits were positive, and the Saturday/Sunday habits needed some work (okay, a LOT of work).
So, I started reading and thinking about habits. If you’ve come into my office at AHS you may have seen my bookshelf. Book after book on mindset, choices, tendencies, mastery, decisions, willpower, progress, grit, drive, productivity, and coaching. All about HABITS. But what does it all boil down to?
“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.” (Gretchen Rubin)
Are you aware of your habits? Do you know where you are strong and where you aren’t? Do you know what your triggers are?
The first step is to do some reflection on some of these questions. Once you have given some thought to yourself, your routines, and your intentions for changing your habits, then the real work begins. What is the CUE (the trigger that starts your habit) that will lead to a ROUTINE (which is the behavior or action itself) which ultimately leads to a positive REWARD (the benefit)?
Let’s put this into practice … “I want to eat a healthy dinner tomorrow” …
CUE – walk in the house after a busy day at work or errands.
ROUTINE – know what you are cooking (do not decide when you are staring into the fridge trying to mentally organize a meal … you need to have the plan and the groceries organized) … AND the first step in the meal preparation ready to go. Often it is the first step that is the most difficult, so walk in the house and know what you are going to do.
REWARD – enjoy your healthy dinner (with leftovers, so you can get a healthy lunch the next day as part of your hard work).
Once I realized this loop, I had to work backwards and figure out my weekend. I was able to spend the morning relaxing and reading and then I chose to get outside to enjoy a walk or a jog. I set myself a time limit – 10:30 am – and that was my CUE. Then, I put on real clothes and running shoes and went outside. Once I got into this ROUTINE, I had a healthier habit. I enjoyed my downtime but gave myself a cutoff time so I didn’t spend the whole day on the couch. Plus, the fresh air helped me to make a more productive choice for lunch and I tended to eat less. The REWARD was getting more variety in my weekend and not straying too far off my regular Monday-to-Friday routine. Plus a few more steps on my FitBit, which always makes me happier!
Habits are fascinating to me. If you want to work through a list of questions to help know yourself and your strengths (and areas to improve upon), you are invited to come to our Healthy Habits lecture. Maybe you’ll gain some insight into the invisible architecture of your own daily life.