Getting into the habit of doing instead of just wishing
Like many others, I spent years meaning to do many things. I meant to read more, to exercise, to lose weight, to meditate and to keep up with friends. Full of aspirations, I started every year, every month, and at the beginning of almost every day with good intentions that quickly flew out of the window.
Come February, the initial oomph was gone. Come June, it was obviously better to wait for next year to start. I knew I had the exact same number of hours in a day as everyone else, but others seemed to achieve so much more in the space of that time. I was more than a little disheartened.
When a person faces financial difficulties, they have the option to either try to increase incoming funds or to decrease outgoing expenses. You can work longer hours, or take an extra job, but you cannot do that with time. Your incoming is limited to those 24 hours.
The other option is to decrease expenses: to forgo that extra latte, that glossy magazine or the latest movie. You can cancel a vacation or stop yourself from buying a snazzy dress you have been wanting. Still, how do you decrease the expense of frittering away time?
Hitting my fifties meant a whole host of issues that I now had to deal with, not least of which was menopause. More importantly, I now felt that I owed it to myself to start doing rather than talking about all the things that I wanted to do. I was at a stage where I needed to start shifting the focus from looking after others to looking after myself and taking full responsibility for how I live my life.
The question was, how?
Then I came across a wonderful book called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. I changed how I thought about it. My epiphany came when I realized that the best way to start to do the stuff I have been meaning to do is by creating mini habits that I can inject into my day.
The epiphany hinges on the idea of “mini”.
Before realizing the power of the ‘mini’, I always thought in chunks that seemed too big to digest. I wanted to lose 20 kilos, read 20 books a month, and exercise for a whole hour every day. When I discovered the power of the ‘mini’, I learned to zap my big objectives into smaller bite-sized activities. Instead of 50 books, I decided to read 5 pages a day, instead of 20 kilos, I focused on half a kilo a month.
The other part of the formula was ‘habits’.
I started slow. One thing at a time. I began with meditation. Five minutes a day first thing in the morning, before my morning coffee, before I looked at my phone before I did anything else. It became a habit. I later increased the time to 10 minutes. Meditation has helped me tremendously. I was one of the skeptics who thought this was a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but doing it regularly helps center me at the beginning of my day and allows me be more in control of my thoughts and reactions.
My next adventure into mini habits was to make friends with my Fitbit and to try to reach a reasonable number of steps a day. I started small, 3,000 steps, and increased 500 steps each week until I reached the desired target of 10,000. I do something else when I walk, I listen to audio books, which achieves my other mini target of 5 pages a day, or I call friends or family to stay in touch. Another mini high five!
I have not moved mountains, but I am some way up one of them. That’s good enough. I have learned to celebrate small wins and to incorporate mini habits into my day. My time does not feel hijacked by massive commitments, but I am moving steadily in small steps in the right direction.
Who would have thought I would adopt the ‘mini’ at my age?!!