“Just because you’re struggling with self-discipline doesn’t mean you have to raise the white flag and declare your self-improvement efforts a complete failure. Instead, work to increase the chances that you’ll stick to your healthier habits – even when you don’t feel like it.” – Amy Morin
If you find it easy to develop new and better habits, that impresses me. Some people can see the value in a new habit and simply start doing it. That is seldom true for me. I find it difficult to overcome resistance.
In December, a friend mentioned that every day, she walks or runs at least one mile. I thought, “That seems doable! It would be so much better than nothing,” which is what I was doing some days. It is so easy to get lethargic around the holidays and in winter. But starting on January 1, I’ve been walking or running at least a mile (often more) every day.
Our goals, of course, have to be right for us. My running friends might consider a mile a day to be nothing, whereas sedentary friends might consider it to be a lot. We each have to start with where we’re at. Someone who doesn’t walk at all could start with walking one block a day. That can lead to more walking.
Establishing new habits doesn’t need to be drudgery. Every day, I ask myself what is the most pleasant way to get my walk in? Weather permitting, it is most pleasant to walk or run outside. But winter has been rough this year in the Chicago area. Sometimes I walk with my husband Ken outside, even on snowy sidewalks. If it’s very cold or slick, I do a mall walk with a friend, walk on a treadmill, or walk on an indoor track with Ken. I’ve also run with a friend at a track a few times. Some days have been dangerously cold or slick outside, so I walked inside the house for 20 minutes while listening to a podcast or music.
I started another good habit this year that is consistent with my writing goals. Since January 1, I’ve been working on my mystery novel every day. I add at least 200 words a day, and I also subtract words as I edit and tighten my first draft.
Baby steps are what helped me develop this good habit. I took the following baby steps to get writing on my mystery:
I started by journaling daily last year. For me, this was easier and less scary than writing fiction.
I joined a group that held me accountable for writing 100 words a day.
Next I increased to writing 200 words a day.
Then I only counted writing if it was on my novel or a short story. I’ve committed to write 6 days out of 7, but so far, I’m writing daily.
I’ve been wanting to write a mystery novel for at least a decade. The truth is, it has taken a lot more steps than the above to get to this point. But it is so much better to take a baby step towards one’s goals, then to go backwards or do nothing.
In developing new habits, it helps to have a support group, supportive friend, or someone to hold us accountable. I’m a new member of the Sisters in Crime organization and joined their Goals subgroup. I post my writing goals for the week and whether I met last week’s goals. The people are encouraging, and they cheer when I meet my goals. Some women write a huge amount every day, but I am not going to let that bother me. I am starting with where I’m at—a novice mystery writer.
It can help to reward ourselves when trying to establish a new habit. I am still trying to lose weight. I had developed the bad habit of snacking on sweets during the day. There are often baked goods at the church where I work. Every time I pass up a baked good, I pat myself on the back, sometimes literally. At home, I try to grab a cup of herbal tea instead of a sweet. However, I’ve decided to go back to my weight-management workshop. A good friend questioned why I need that support. Why can’t I do it on my own? We are all different, and even though she might not need support, I do.
Do you find it difficult or easy to establish a new habit? How do you do it?