6 Ways Good Habits Make Life Easier

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Most people know that exercising good habits produces a much more satisfying, productive, and fulfilling life. The thing is… it’s one thing to know it and an entirely different thing to actually put those good habits into practice in your daily life. We live in such an instant-gratification society. What’s today’s payoff for saying “no” now to a bigger “yes” that’s down the road?

Six ways good habits make life easier.

  1. Habits are automatic and don’t take much energy.
  2. Your habits are an outward reflection of who you are inside. Don’t like a certain behavior? You can change the direction of your thoughts and actions!
  3. You get a dopamine reward for feeling a sense of pride in your decision.
  4. You have more time for the things that matter to you.
  5. Your good habits give you a bigger picture of life.
  6. Desiring to live with good habits challenges you to become a better version of the person you were yesterday.

Are you thinking, “that sounds great, but… I don’t really have much willpower. How am I supposed to become this super-person?” Don’t panic, and please let go of the fear of defeat! Let’s dive into these and see how technology can help too.

What’s a Habit?

If the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “habit” is the attire a nun wears or what is worn for proper horseback riding, we should probably take a moment to define what we mean.

According to dictionary.cambridge.org, a habit is: “Something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you’re doing it.”

That’s our first point:

1. Habits are automatic and don’t take much energy

Think about this… do you know someone who crosses his arms when he’s deep in thought? This is an involuntary habit he has created for himself – he didn’t consciously tell himself to cross his arms, he just did it. He’s closed himself off from the outside world so he can think clearly without interruption. Well, he hopes he doesn’t get interrupted, anyway.

We develop habits that range from how we lay when we sleep to how we hold a fork to which arm goes into the shirt first. We have choices about how we approach everything. Sometimes, we have just stopped being intentional about those choices.

If you want to be intentional about certain choices, technology can help you with that.

Maybe you want to get out of bed the first time the alarm goes off, but you’ve developed a habit of hitting the snooze button instead.

Your alarm clock is a form of technology – particularly if you’re using your smartphone as your alarm. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Choose a really jarring sound that isn’t easy to sleep through. Music and nature sounds are nice to wake to, but they’re also easy to ignore for many.
  • Put your alarm on the opposite side of the room from your sleeping position. Make it, so you have to get out of bed to shut that noise off! Then choose to stay out of bed. Regardless of how tempting that pillow is.
  • If that’s not enough, here’s something that will get your blood pumping: get an alarm clock you have to chase. Clocky* is your own personal robot on wheels and will run away, hide, roll, beep, and jump to get you out of bed.

If you have a habit that you don’t like, don’t focus on eliminating it, focus on creating a new habit that becomes more of how you want to be. Instead of hitting the snooze button so, you have to rush to get ready for work, get up when the alarm goes off the first time and have a calmer beginning to your day.

Who Are You?

In 1978, the classic rock band, The Who, released an album that asked if you really knew who you were or if you were just going through the motions of life or worse, just acting like you think you’re supposed to?

That brings us to point number two:

2. Your habits are an outward reflection of who you are inside. Don’t like a certain behavior? You can change the direction of your thoughts and actions!

In addition to physical habits, we also create attitudinal habits.

Are you overjoyed when you see someone? You’ve created a habit that tells you this person is a good thing in your life. Do you get grumpy when the stoplight turns yellow, or do you see it as an opportunity to use the time for something?

Do you want to create a new outlook on a certain area of your life? You can!

One tool you can use to help yourself is to put a reminder on your smart phone’s home screen. Using the yellow light example, the first thing you will probably do when you stop at that light is to reach for your phone.

What if when you pick up your phone, the image that greets you is the phrase you want to become part of you? Something like:

  • Choose Joy
  • I’m Grateful For…
  • Right Now, I Choose…
  • A Big Yellow Smiley Face

You could even set up an alarm so that a certain reminder pops up at different times of the day.

Pat Yourself on the Back!

Did you know that every time you do something that makes you happy, your brain releases some “feel good” chemicals that prolong your time of feeling good?

We’re already to point number three:

3. You get a dopamine reward for feeling a sense of pride in your decision.

Psychology Today suggests that dopamine is “a chemical that ferries information between neurons. [It] helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and emotional responses. It also enables us not only to see rewards but take action to move toward them.”

When your brain signals that you’ve chosen well because you are pleased with yourself, it naturally releases healthy amounts of dopamine to help trigger a party in your frontal cortex. As a result, the dopamine is making you feel good about your choice for a longer period of time. Your body remembers that chemical release, and it helps you make the same positive choice again in the future.

When you have a task scheduled, and you really don’t want to do it, you have a choice to make. When you decide that it’s worth doing so, you can cross it off your list, and your brain rewards you for that positive choice.

I Wish I Could, But…

How often do you find yourself saying that? Someone invites you for coffee, “I wish I could, but I have to…” or a new book has been released, and you think you’d really like it, “I wish I had time to read, but…”

When you make good habits a priority, you come to the fourth point:

4. You have more time for the things that matter to you.

Effective time management is a good habit that gives you a huge payoff.

Here’s the thing: what’s good time management for one person may not work well for another. You have to do what works for you. That said, there are several technological automation helps you can get for this:

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I’m not a list person.” No problem! Are you a sticky note person? How do you remind yourself of something you want to get done? Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t want to type all of that into your smartphone. Again… No Problem! Put voice commands to use.

When you open your calendar or some other app, you can either use your smart phone’s assistant or the microphone function.

  • All you need to do is say, “Schedule [Event], [Date], [Time]” It could look something like this: “Siri (or Alexa or Cortana – whatever your phone’s assistant is) schedule Picnic at Jones’ house July 4, 2020, at 2:00 pm.

There’s an App for That

If you’re interested in a list of apps you can use to help you be more organized, try these:

When you prioritize the things, you need to get done and, as Steven Covey said, “Do the first things first,” you will find you have more time available for the things that you want to do.

See the Forest and the Trees

6 Ways Good Habits Make Life Easier

Good habits help you focus not only on today (the trees) but also on the future (the whole forest) while you learn from the past (the saplings).

This brings us to point number five:

5. Your good habits give you a bigger picture of life.

When you’re first developing a new habit, you want to already be at that place you picture, but that’s in the future. You have a clear picture of what that gorgeous forest looks like, but right now, all you see are fragile saplings.

You may feel like you’re one of those saplings. Easily stepped on and broken, whipped in the wind, and easily carried away.

But remember this… saplings grow deep roots. They grow strong and reliable. They provide protection and shade for others. That’s you; you’re the maturing tree.

When you surround yourself with people who are strong and ready to support you in your growth process, you have found your forest.

When you first start working on a new habit, you are a weak sapling. As you continue in your growth and development, you begin to see how the little steps you are taking are leading to a life you desire.

You start seeing the big picture of your life and how each choice contributes to your goals instead of seeing one “have-to-do” at a time.

A Better Version of You

Here’s our last point:

6. Desiring to live with good habits challenges you to become a better version of the person you were yesterday.

Let’s be clear about this. Nobody is suggesting that you’re not a good person or that you’re some sort of a failure. YOU are valuable and have a lot to give to others!

That said, just as, over time, you have learned things you didn’t know when you were younger, you have the chance to choose to keep learning. You are the boss of you. As part of that, you can develop new habits that you want to have as part of your life.

Choosing new habits takes work. Just being committed to the process of creating a new habit is work. This is a process, a marathon, not a sprint.

You wouldn’t expect to go from being a couch potato to being able to run even a half-marathon (21 kilometers or 13.1 miles) immediately. Cut yourself some slack and recognize that mastering a new habit takes time. Time that you are choosing to invest in yourself.

Just as investing in the stock market is a long game, so is investing in yourself.

How Long Does it Take to Form a New Habit?

A study conducted by Philippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, depending on the habit you’re working toward, it can take anywhere from as few as 21 days to as many as 254 days to fully embrace the habit to the point of it becoming an automatic action.

The study found that the key to the development of a new habit is consistency. If the subject of the study missed one day of the new habit, he was able to return to it the next day. Issues arose when there were multiple times the subject missed the chosen action.

What Does This All Mean? 

It means that you’re a unique individual and how long it will take for a chosen behavior to become a habit depends on who you are at your core. Things matter like:

  • What you’ve experienced
  • What kind of behavior you’re working toward
  • What kind of environment you are in as you’re working toward your new habit

To help yourself manage your expectations, you want to think of new habits in terms of a range of months – between two to eight months to be a little more precise.

Don’t panic. Choose to think of it this way: If you start now, you’re one day closer to having things developed the way you want them to be. If you’re concerned that eight months is just too long – too far away, make an entry in your calendar for eight months from now asking, “how’s that [new habit]?” In eight months, you will get a reminder.

How will you feel when that reminder comes up on your phone? Will you have a level of satisfaction because you have it under control? Or will you have a twinge of regret because you still wish you could …

Get in this for the long game. You can develop the stamina you need to get to the place you want to be!

Change Your Mindset

This really circles us back to our second point:

  • Your habits are an outward reflection of who you are inside. Don’t like a certain behavior? You can change the direction of your thoughts and actions!

Challenge yourself to think of things differently. It’s natural for some to think in terms of “I have to…” When they tell themselves this, what they’re really saying is, “Ugh! I don’t want to do this, but some big meanie is making me do this.”

If you’re doing this to yourself, you’re giving yourself a double whammy. Not only are you making yourself a victim of the process that you’ve chosen, but you’ve decided that you’re bullying yourself into this new behavior too.

You’re valuable. Be kind to yourself!

What if you think of this new task/thought/action in terms of, “I’m choosing to do this because every day/hour/minute I’m becoming who I want to be.”

Become your own cheerleader.

Set Your Goal(s)

Your first step is to decide where you want to go; what you want to work toward.

Is this a big goal that you can break down into smaller goals?

Be specific.

If you want to make sure you’re drinking at least ounces of water every day, what if you try this:

  • Grab a glass
  • Fill it with water
  • Pour that water into a measuring cup (how many ounces is one glass?)
  • Divide 64 by the amount your glass holds – Do you have a 16-ounce glass? You’ll need to drink at least four of those.
  • Set four reminders on your calendar to make sure you’ve drunk your glass of water and to refill it.

In time, your body will get used to wanting that much water and will remind you that it wants more. You can apply this process to nearly any habit you want to create.

In the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*, Steven Covey quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson who said,

“Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Go and reap your destiny!

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