I meet a lot of brilliant women who are dedicated and talented in their professional careers. Sadly, when it comes to their personal lives, they find themselves stuck with a frustrating lack of impudence. Some say coffee is a great mood stabilizer, but on one morning not long ago as I sat across the table from one of my dearest friends, there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to soothe her. Even though she is one of New York’s most successful psychologists, she was facing her own personal nightmare. Her teenage children were overwhelming her. Her husband had become increasingly distant and inattentive to both her and their marriage. Her friends were also distancing themselves as they were becoming fed up with her ceaseless complaining and negativity.
For years she was obsessively devoted to her career, and she didn’t leave any space for additional interests—her family included. She knew she needed to make some changes but had no idea where to begin. She was distraught. Watching tears roll down her cheeks, all I wanted to do was reassure her that brighter days were ahead. A few years ago my own world fell apart, or so I thought. A wise person said to me then, “The state of your life is nothing more than the state of your mind. We are what we repeatedly do. Perfection then is not an act, but a habit.” It was an inspiring and motivational thought. I am on my own journey to find and form good habits that will change my life. Here are a few I have found along the way:
GET MOTIVATED: One popular myth is the belief that it only takes 21 days to form a habit. Striving for an arbitrary number of days is not how you get results. Motivation is interwoven with your goals and the habits you plan to form in order to achieve them.
DREAM BIG: In a fascinating study on motivation, psychologists Fujita Kentaro, Yaacov Trope and Nira Liberman found abstract thinking to be an effective method to help with discipline. In the most basic sense: dream big.
SET MICRO AND MACRO GOALS: Find a way to balance your big dreams with your day-to-day activities. The best way to do it is to set macro goals—which is the big picture you wish to someday accomplish—and set micro tasks, which is the minimum amount of work that you must accomplish every single day to make the big picture a reality.
ASK YOURSELF—WHY? When building a certain habit clearly ask yourself “why?” frequently. Make sure to answer honestly. When you charge headlong into a new habit without clearly defining your goals, your resolve will weaken and it will be very difficult to stay consistent.
AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT: Be prepared for setbacks and the frustrating ‘’ah screw it!!’’ moments when developing new habits. In those moments take a close look at your routine, particularly right before practicing the problematic habit. Identify what is giving you internal struggle and create shortcuts so that the uncomfortable moments are noticed and lessened. With each time you identify the reason behind the setback, you will be able to adjust and stick to your goals.
CREATE AND FOLLOW A ROUTINE: From dining to dressing, from phone calls to your daily commute, allow yourself to become a little bored. You don’t want to waste your mental energy on making trivial decisions.
PLAN AND VISUALIZE: Visualizing your dreams will help you stay focused on the goals required to reach them, and it will reduce your anxiety. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it best, ‘’Plans are worthless, but planning is everything’’.
GET A HAPPY HABIT STUDY BUDDY: Share your new habits with a trusted friend or family member. Make a list of happy habits together. Share your notes and discoveries, and your challenges and how you overcame them. Celebrate successes, and encourage and inspire one another in your habit-making venture.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT MAKING PROGRESS: Trust me you are! Share your lessons. Write a comment sharing your simple, happy habits and how you practice them. We’d all appreciate it.