The other night I was feeling discouraged. I have such high aspirations for my life. Doing personal development is probably the BEST thing that I’ve added to my life in this past year and a half of being a Beachbody Coach, but the more I listen to other people’s “best advice” on living a better life, the longer my to-do list gets.
I love getting tips from others, and I want to implement so much of it – but too much of a good thing isn’t always good.
My mind races with all of my “goals” to be intentional toward my husband and building up our marriage, and with my kids, to shower them with love and affirmation and train them to be respectful and do chores around the house, and feed them whole healthy foods, and limit their tv time and make sure they play outside every day and expose them to the arts and then with my business – best practices for training my coaches, and motivating my challengers and keeping my own healthy journey on track, and then my church and investing in the ladies in my small group and making time to get to church early for a new class and then my extended family – supporting them through sickness, helping them with a move, making sure I carve out time to chat when they are going through major life changes and don’t forget to manage our finances, and track our spending daily and make sure we are contributing to our investments and the kid’s college fund and not going out to eat too much, but still being ok to spend money on date nights because our marriage is important, and my own spiritual growth – taking time to read scripture and be in prayer – but not to neglect the house either – the kids need an orderly, safe place to grow up in.
So many best practices, so many plates to keep spinning – I’ve only barely scratched the surface of all the things that run through my mind on a daily and hourly basis! So many opportunities to feel like a failure, so many areas I need to “excel” in and so many “consequences” for not living properly.
It’s exhausting. It’s tempting to just want to throw in the towel and give up on EVERYTHING! (Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but that’s how I feel sometimes).
It just seems like everything that is right and good takes SO much hard work.
And I’m tired.
Will it always be this hard?
Thankfully I was able to sort through some things last night and I realized – it won’t.
Years ago I read this book called The Power of Habit. The majority of the things we do each day are habits. Getting up and out of bed and shuffling over to the bathroom is a habit. You don’t sit up and think, “Ok, where should I walk to? The Kitchen? No. The Living Room? No. The Bathroom? Well, I do have a lot of useful things I can do there…ok! The Bathroom it is!” No, you’ve done it every single day for so long, that it is a habit. It’s actually scary how many things in our life are controlled by habit! Driving, making a sandwich, the questions we ask in a conversation, so much of what we do in life is habit. It’s because our brains would be too exhausted to make every single decision we need to make in a day over and over again. It makes short cuts for us, so when we receive a trigger (waking up) we take an action (walk to the bathroom) and we are rewarded for it (we are ready for the day) and our brain thinks: “This is a good action to take when the trigger of waking up happens – repeat every morning.” And the habit is born.
This is a good thing to know because we can use this brain shortcut to live well without feeling so overwhelmed. All these things that I want to do, all of my grand aspirations will be much more manageable if I turn them into habits. Things that I do automatically, without having to make a new decision every day.
So, I’ve decided to start small, choose one thing I want to change and implement and turn it into a habit. To create a new habit all you need to do is follow the pattern:
If I want to wash my face more consistently than I do (this is a real thing for me), I decided that when I wash my hands to take off my contacts, I will wash my face at the same time. There’s my trigger and my action, and when I am done I will put on the delicious smelling lotion that I love – because yummy smells brings me pleasure, and that is my brain’s reward.
It’s going to take some effort, it’s going to take some will-power and intentionality to get the wheel moving, and get the habit established, but once I do, I won’t have to stress about it, or work so hard to make the decision, it will be an automatic part of who I am.
You can apply this to investing in your marriage, spending time with your kids, building spiritual disciplines. Get a trigger, do the action and reward yourself for it. Put in the work to create a habit and it WON’T always be this hard.
If you are interested in learning more about this concept, I encourage you to get the book The Power of Habit, I am not an amazon affiliate or anything, I just think it’s a great read.