Hello everyone! Long time, no post. 😉
My apologies for not posting things since November. My intentions were to post all through Christmas, but with the end of my biggest semester yet and getting sick, again, I’ve been in the bed most of the last two weeks. Ugh!
With 2016 coming to a close, I’ve been reflecting, from the couch and bed, about the year. I was already thinking, “Wow, 2016 can’t end fast enough!”, but then I noticed everyone else was posting basically the same thing. Why? Was their year as crazy as mine or what was SO bad that we all want this year to end very soon?
I looked back at my year and at each month from a personal and global perspective and here is what I found (the good and the bad)……..
January – My dad passed away….8 “celebrities” passed away….moved into my boss’ 5th wheel camper…..Tom got a job…Powerball hit $1.6 billion
February – Sold my condo…..15 “celebrities” passed away…the Pope visited Cuba
March – 15 “celebrities” passed away…..Bought a house….Islamic attacks in Brussels
April – 11 “celebrities” passed away …….Mom came to Troy for a visit to help with house….Queen Elizabeth turned 90 years old
May –Good friend’s husband passed away……7 “celebrities” passed away………Ann-Ashton graduated from high school…EgyptAir flight 804 crash… Transgender bathroom issues….Zika outbreak
June – 15 “celebrities” passed away…..Celebrated 1 year blogging anniversary & 5th year wedding anniversary…Brexit…..Orlando nightclub shooting
July – 8 “celebrities” passed away……Vacationed in Pennsylvania for the 1st time in two years…..Big Serve Day at local community center….attach on Dallas Police Officers…Baton Rouge shootings
August – 14 “celebrities” passed away……AA started school here in Troy…Rio Olympics…Louisiana flooding…. Italy earthquake…..hottest temps on record
September – 14 “celebrities” passed away…..ReCreate Conference with Mom & sis…Clinton’s email scandal….New York & New Jersey bombings….Minnesota stabbing…Charlotte shooting protests
October – 3 “celebrities” passed away….Art teacher conference…Hurricane Matthew….Bob Dylan won Nobel Prize for Literature…Creepy Clown phenomenon
November – 11 “celebrities” passed away…..Nephew earns Eagle Scout award…..travel to Dallas with Mom….US Presidential election (whao!)…Cubs end 108 year drought…Super Moon
December – 14 “celebrities” passed away…..Spent Christmas with Mom, sis & her family, and my kiddos…Tom and I were sick, sick…..Berlin terror attack
Crazy, huh? This year was full of a lot of ups and downs on a personal and global level! Whew that’s A LOT of stuff!
I’m right along with those of you who are ready for this year to come to a close, but while reflecting on this crazy year, there is still one thing we know for sure….
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever
That’s all we need to know. Things and circumstances change but through it all, He remains the same.
As I get ready to face 2017, I can start by knowing He’s been there with me, with all of us, through everything, good and bad. I pray for all of us in the new year. I pray for our health, our families, our relationships, our finances, our dreams, and our purposes.
Looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us! And I promise to be more “regular” in my writing this year.
I’m also including last year’s post about how NOT to make resolutions, but to form new habits. Enjoy!
HOW TO CREATE NEW HABITS
How can we create new habits instead of making mindless resolutions we won't keep?
I’m glad you asked!
Before we get into the day-to-day, nitty-gritty of developing new habits, the first things we HAVE to do is pray. You’re probably saying, “Pray! Really? Is she serious?” Yep, I’m serious. This entire blog is based on the power of prayer. I’ve seen its power in my own life and now I don’t do anything, I mean ANYTHING, without praying FIRST. And that’s the key, pray FIRST, listen, THEN act.
Pray First and Pray Often!
Praying first for new habits in this new year means praying for God to make you aware of bad habits you need to break and to direct you toward what good habits you should develop. Pray for Him to show you resources (like this post!) to help you develop a plan of action. Pray for Him to walk beside you and sustain you as you develop this new habit. Thank Him for every step along the way and praise Him name with each small success.
Only through Him can you truly develop and keep new habits because He’s changing you on the INSIDE!
How Long Will It Take for My New Habit to “Stick”?
As I mentioned in the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting Journal (get your free copy here), developing a new habit will NOT happen in 21 days. Again, sorry to be Debbie Downer and burst your bubble, but 21 days just gets you STARTED.
According to James Clear and other behavior researchers, it usually takes more like 2+ months (66 days if you want an exact number) to get a new habit to stick. Researchers also found it can take some people as few as 18 days, while it takes others more than 250 days.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his awesome book Outliers, says is takes over 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So, get ready for it to take a little while!
Daily Nitty-Gritty Stuff
Once you’ve prayed and decided on the habit(s) you want to develop, then it’s time to set up an environment so you will be successful. If you continue to do things like you’ve always done, yet expect different results, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Something has to change!
James Clear, Charles Duhigg, and now me, have three key steps to help develop and sustain new habits. I will detail each step below with illustrations of how I formed my new habit in 2015.
1-Develop a Trigger (Clear calls it a Reminder, Duhigg calls it a Cue) – Developing a trigger simply means you need something to signal you to actually DO the new habit you’re are trying to master. Remember, it’s not a “habit” yet, so you have to do it enough times, over a long enough time period (2+ months) for it to become part of your muscle memory.
What Kelly Did:
Okay, I have a small confession…I actually started trying to form my new habit July 7, 2014. I know the exact date because my daughter’s birthday is July 6 and I saw a picture of myself that day and thought, “Oh, my! I have to do something about this weight gain and I have to do it NOW!”
So that was my tipping point. I had talked about losing weight. I had thought about it, but I had not done anything about it, until that day. I also knew I had to change things, so the very next day I started walking. Nothing big. I didn’t set out to run a marathon. I walked as far as I could and vowed to do a little more the next day, then a little more, and a little more, etc.
I continued to do this every day for five months straight, lost 20 pounds, and ran my first 5K race in November.
Did you catch that? I did it for FIVE MONTHS! I had to do a little more EVERY DAY in order to get the results I did in November.
To stay on track I had to purposely set up triggers to remind me to do this new “habit” I was trying to develop. During the summer, when I was home, I laid out my running clothes the night before. I set my alarm a little earlier so I could get up and get out early and still get things done that I needed to do. When I went back to work in August I took my running clothes to the office each day. I scheduled the time I would run each day based on my teaching schedule, then I would set an alarm so I would stop working, go run, and either go back and work some more or go home for the evening.
I had to purposely set triggers so I would be reminded to do this new thing I hoped would become a habit. The first day I didn’t do it (it was well into September by then), I felt like I had forgotten something! That’s when I knew it had finally become a habit. The moment I felt lost or like I had failed to do something was also a trigger that reminded me what habit I should be doing.
My “resolution” in January 2015 was to keep up my new “habit” and to keep the weight off. I fluctuated in weight about 5 pounds or so, but I kept the habit of running and eating better ALL YEAR LONG! That’s the FIRST time I’ve ever been able to say that! Feels great, btw!
What You can do:
Put it on your schedule – “Things that get scheduled get done.” (Michael Hyatt)
Set an alarm. On your phone. On your computer. Alarm clock. Or all three! Whatever it takes to remind you. Do it!
Post a visual. Visuals are great triggers to keep the new habit constantly in view. Put a visual on your frig, car, desk, television, computer, writing pad, etc. wherever you will see it all day!
2-Do Something (Clear & Duhigg call it a Routine)
The “something” that you do might be not eating as much, not eating or drinking a certain food or drink, exercising, saving money, etc., but it’s the action YOU HAVE TO DO. The food won’t cut itself in half or go away. The running shoes won’t run for you. The credit card won’t stop itself from being swiped. YOU HAVE TO DO IT!
Clear and Duhigg calls this action Routine. You do something enough times, it becomes routine!
What Kelly did:
I set up all my triggers (alarm, notes to self stuck everywhere, schedule, etc.) and then I actually RAN. I’m a big checklist person, so the fact I ran and then marked that one off my list felt like an accomplishment for the day.
I also weighed in every week as another visual reminder of why I was doing this. The weight was coming off and I was feeling SO MUCH BETTER, which leads into the next step: celebrating.
What You can do:
Follow through. It’s one thing to set an alarm, write yourself notes, etc., but if you don’t actually do what you say you’re going to do, then what’s the point. If you don’t have any intention of losing weight, cutting your debt, or stopping smoking, then don’t put it down as a new habit. YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!
And that can also mean NOT doing some things. If you are trying to cut debt, which is one of those new “habits” I’m still working on for 2016, then you CANNOT do some things. You CANNOT go run up another credit card, but you CAN pay a little extra on one you’ve already maxed out. If you’re going to lose weight, you CANNOT eat a second piece of pie, but you CAN cut one piece a little smaller and therefore lessen the amount you’re eating.
Just like the leaves changing in Autumn. We don’t notice all the individual leaves changing colors a little bit every day, but then one day we look around and say, “ Oh, look at all the trees! Autumn is here!” YOU have to do a little bit every day too so you can eventually see big transformations over time.
3-Celebrate (Clear & Duhigg call it Reward)
This last step to the 3-part process probably sounds like a no-brainer but is actually the most unconscious decision we make when we’re performing a habit and often the hardest to identify. We got into our “bad” habits because there was something about what we did (the routine) that satisfied us (the reward). Initially, the trigger may have been a hunger craving or a nervous feeling, so we ate or smoked. But what was the reward? It may be the taste of a certain food or feeling full, or the calming effect of a cigarette, (Just for the record, I have NEVER smoked! I’ve had people tell me that’s what it does.) or the satisfaction of buying a new pair of shoes (Okay, I have done that one, many times!).
According to Charles Duhigg, you have to identify what it is that is actually driving you to do the things you’re doing by changing up your routine. Instead of grabbing a candy bar at 3PM every day, try getting up and walking around your building, talk to colleagues, etc. Try something different for a few days and see if the act of eating was a routine of actual hunger or a routine to break the monotony of the day. Duhigg lays it out in greater detail here.
What Kelly did:
I had a bad habit of eating junk food around 3-3:30 PM every day and then eating a fairly large dinner when I got home. I finally identified the trigger and reward around this habit was formed while I was growing up. Mom always had a “snack” for us when we got home from school and she, my sister, and I would sit around the table and talk about our day and eat. Then a few hours later we would eat dinner.
I related this routine to good memories of family, comfort, and love. That was my “reward”. I’ve also realized this is the time of day my sugar levels also drop, so I do need “something” to eat around that time of day. To this day, I still have a “snack” around 3PM! I don’t always have someone to talk to or share my day with, but I’ve continued the eating part of my routine.
Once I realized the reward I was still seeking, I had to change it. I do need a break and a little boost of energy around that time of day, so instead of eating half a bag of cookies (I know! Don’t judge!), I now have a 7-ounce Diet Mountain Dew and a Dippin’ Stix snack-size portion of apple, peanut butter, and chocolate. It’s small, filling, and a break in my day! I still get my reward of food, chocolate, and caffeine, but in a smaller, less fattening version. I also get up, walk around the building, and stop to chat with whoever is around, so I also get my break and time to share with friends just like sharing with Mom and Courtney so many years ago.
By the way, these Dippin’ Stix are good and very inexpensive ($1.50/each). They come in a lot of different combinations (apples, carrots, and celery with peanut butter, chocolate, caramel, yogurt, and hummus). Yummy! I get them at Walmart in the produce section.
Another type of reward or celebration I did allow myself to have in 2014-15 was once I lost ten pounds, I bought myself some new running shoes. This type of celebration is a way of keeping the momentum going. I didn’t go out and buy everything new, I bought one thing that celebrated my success and then set my sights on the next goal in forming my new habit.
What You can do:
***You may have to try several different “rewards” to see what you can actually replace your bad habits and rewards with. Your change may not be as simple as replacing one for another, but by consciously researching what works for you, you CAN make positive changes and rewards for your new habits.***
So, yes, you should celebrate when you have a success or do something positive while forming your new habit, but step back to realize why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Replace bad habits with good ones by rewarding yourself in positive ways.
Wrapping It Up
Here’s hoping you take a few minutes this first week of 2016 to really think about what habits you want to conquer this year. By praying for guidance and direction, setting up triggers to keep you focused, doing something, and then celebrating small victories, I bet you will look back in December and say, “I FINALLY kept my New Year’s resolution habit!”
I actually looked up the definitions of resolution and habit. Which would you rather claim to do this year?
Resolution - a firm decision to do or not to do something. (a statement)
Habit - a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. (an action)
For me, resolution sounds rather “demanding”, like a declaration. But a declaration, or statement, without action doesn’t make for change. Habit, on the other hand, sounds like you’re doing something. Something done “regularly” and is “hard to give up”. That sounds more like what I want to do! Actions trump declarations anytime!
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2~