I decided for the month of July to try to develop habits that would increase my energy levels. So almost 3 weeks into the month, I’m taking stock of where I’m at with it. If I’m honest, I feel a tad discouraged with it. Despite my best intentions, I’ve been no where near perfect at keeping to my new habits.
Some bloggers do 30 day challenges or 1-year challenges and write about the profound changes in their life due to whatever they did for that period of time. What about the rest of us who decide to make a change and just don’t stick to it? I wanted to take some time and analyze my progress and my energy habits, but also maybe provide some insight in general on creating habits and overcoming the difficulties to doing so.
Letting go of perfection
One thing that gets me is when I’m not perfect about doing something. I feel discouraged with some of my energy habits because I haven’t done them EVERY day. I have been tracking which ones I do (more on that in a minute) and my success rate for my new habits ranges from 35% for the worst one and 95% for the best. I feel like these should all be 100s.
The pursuit of perfection has it’s advantages, but it’s not always helpful. In fact, when focusing on it, it can be just the opposite. That element of discouragement for not being perfect can make a person just give up. A more useful way of looking at these things is to realize all of the times I have done these beneficial activities that I wouldn’t have done were I not trying to make them habits.
Expecting too much too soon
Developing new habits can be hard. Even things that are simple to do can be tough to turn into real habits. From my experience, things that I stick with tend to stick in the long run. While I am transitioning into the new habit, I may not be perfect at it or may not do it every day. Still, each time I do the activity, it strengthens those pathways in my brain and helps to develop it into a habit. Really, it doesn’t matter if I miss a day or a few days of something.
In my current situation, a month long challenge is a good way to start developing habits that I want, but in the long run, a month isn’t going to change my life. If these are things that are important to me and I stick to it, I’ll get better at doing them.
Sometimes, it’s not that I don’t want to do my energy habits. There are just times when the day flies by and some things don’t get done. (Ironically, sometimes I’ve felt like I didn’t have the energy to do some of my habits for energy too! For example, the other night, I had no energy for cooking a healthy dinner and ate pizza instead.) This is really a matter of priorities. I’m not sure what my approach to overcoming the lack of time thing needs to be in relation to my energy habits. Maybe prioritizing which ones are the most important to me, perhaps even removing some from the list that I am trying to accomplish. I may need to go back to letting go of perfection too.
Taking on too much
It’s easy to want to make a lot of changes at once. There are two ways to take on too much: making too many goals and making goals that are too big. I have mixed feelings about this because sometimes, making related changes all at one time can be pretty powerful. Making a big change can be powerful too. It can also be overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s better to make small, lasting changes than to take on too much and give up because it’s hard.
One of the new habits I am working on is to get more sunlight. I set the criteria at getting at least 5 minutes of sunlight 4 times per day. I am cutting this back to 3 times a day because it makes it easier to accomplish while still keeping the spirit of the goal. I’m also taking one of the habits off my list entirely.
It’s easy to lose touch with our motivation for doing something. You can read ways to motivate yourself for some ideas on re-motivating. It’s also worth taking some time to re-examine your reasons for wanting to create a new habit if you’re running up against feeling unmotivated. Ask yourself if this is REALLY something that you want to be doing.
Lack of results
Sometimes, we may feel like we’re not seeing results from the changes that we’re making. It may be that we haven’t given it enough time. It may also be that the changes and results have occurred so gradually that it’s hard to notice the difference. Some results are easier to see like if one steps on the scale. Others are harder to judge. Do I have more energy than I did 3 weeks ago? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I’m not even sure if I can remember 3 weeks ago all that well. I’m not sure how to tackle this difficulty really. Maybe trying to do some sort of evaluation before and after. Of course, it’s a little late to try that with my energy habits. If anybody has ideas on this one, feel free to post them in the comments!
One thing I do know is that by tracking the habits I am trying to develop, I am much more successful at getting them to stick. I have a simple app on my phone that I use for this, but a spreadsheet, piece of paper or other method works fine too. There are times when I do things simply so I can check them off as done on my app. This helps to provide motivation. I’ve been using this app for various habits off and on for over a year now, I think. It’s helped me to realize that sticking with something long term is more important than if I miss a day or a few days.
Making things specific
My least successful habit so far is one I titled ‘Other energy task’. The idea was to get myself to try new things and see how it went. It was a good idea, but the problem is that it’s so vague, I just skip over it most days. The truth is that this isn’t something that will ever be easy to develop into a habit and not something that would likely last past my July energy challenge. So, I’m just deleting it. I’d rather focus more on the habits that I’m likely to be successful with. Specific habits with defined criteria are much easier to develop.
Setting a time for habits
Interestingly, I’ve only missed two days on my ‘cold shower’ goal. (I haven’t been hardcore enough to just take cold showers, I start them out warm, but do turn the water to as cold as it goes for a minute or two before I get out.) This isn’t the most fun or the easiest of the things that I want to turn into habits. But it has a set time. I know that I have to do it at the end of my shower or I’m not going to get naked and get back in the shower just to force myself to stand under cold water later in the day. So I do it then because it’s my one chance and I want to be able to mark it off as done for the day. Setting a specific time for a habit or linking it with another already established habit increases the chances of success.
Keep with it
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of sticking to it. For me, this is the time when my ‘new’ habits aren’t so new anymore. They don’t feel exciting now and my initial motivation has leached away. Still, they’re not yet ingrained enough to be second nature so they still take work. I know that if I stick with them, I’ll become more used to them and it will get easier.
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to appreciate progress. Tracking helps with this, because it makes it easier to see what one has accomplished. I may not have been perfect with my new habits, but I have done really well with them so far, especially considering how many I decided to tackle at once. And I think I really do have just a bit more energy. 🙂