3 Crazy Cool Ways to Change Our Habits
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Years ago I taught myself how to juggle. How? I simply started tossing two balls up in the air and would catch them over and over again. Then, I added a third ball. Next thing I knew, I could juggle!
Are you tired of dealing with the same type of headaches and heartaches over and over and over again? Juggling the business of life?
One Monday morning while teaching a junior high class, I asked a student how their weekend went. Here’s the conversation:
“I’m so frustrated Mr. Brown! My parents grounded me again. My room is always a mess. My schoolwork is always so disorganized. I’ve tried to get better, but nothing helps. Mr. Brown, I got busted again by mom for having a messy room…again!”
I asked the student, “You said you're ‘So frustrated!’ Help me understand what that means in your world.”
“Mr. Brown, It means that no matter what I do, I can’t find consistency in the things I really want or want to see happen or see positive changes in my life.”
I said, “Tyler, (Name change here for their privacy) you told me once that one of your favorite things to do in life is eat Rocky Road ice cream. By the way, that’s a nice favorite thing to do.” We both high-fived on that one!
Tyler interrupted, “Wait, what in the world does my eating Rocky Road ice cream have to do with why I’m so angry right now?”
I said, “Great question Tyler. First, how often do you eat ice cream? Once a month, two times a year, how often?”
Tyler’s reply was, “Mr. Brown I love Rocky Road ice cream! I eat a small bowl every night. What in the world are you getting at?”
I said, “Tyler, first give me knuckles bro. Rocky Road every night? Yummy! My point is this: You are in the habit of being messy and unorganized and in the habit of eating Rocky Road. I’m not going to say which one is a bad habit or which one is a good habit. What I can say is one of these is a habit that gets you in trouble with your mom, the other one is a habit that brings you joy. You chose bro. Weeks or years ago, you chose to develop these habits.”
Tyler nodded his head up and down and said, “Oh man, you’re right. I see where you are coming from. So how in the heck do I change so I can stop getting grounded for having such a messy room?”
Tyler was my student for 3 years. We had a lot of fun talking about this particular frustration in his life. Tyler is in high school now. He still likes Rocky Road ice cream but recently told me how he wanted to get a bit healthier and so he reduced what he called, “The Rocky Road habit” to once a week. After he told me this, we both smiled, laughed and I pretended to cry and say, “Noooooo! You cut back on the Rocky Road!”
I love to tell my students what an elderly woman (Mrs. Matthews) told me decades ago, “Michael, learn to take charge of your life.” I personally feel one of the best ways we can choose to take charge of our lives is by the habits we choose.
A great question which has been thrown out there is, “Are you willing to spend a little time every day like most people won’t, so you can spend the better part of your life like most people can’t?”
The fact of the matter is you ultimately become what you repeatedly do. Good or bad habits, we are and become what we repeatedly do. We have good habits we do daily and then we have those bad habits we do daily. We develop our good and bad habits pretty much the same way. We do things both good and bad over and over and then they become habits.
I tell my students, regardless of your frustrations or the “I’ve just had enough…”, you don’t suddenly change. You choose to change the habits you don’t like over time based on your rituals.
So, pulling from over 3 decades of experience as one who has worked with students, here are 3 crazy cool ways to change our habits:
1. The ritual of repetition leads to reinforcement
When I was in kindergarten, learning to tie my shoe was a hard trick to master, but when I kept doing it over and over again, I learned how. When I learned how to ride a bicycle it was hard to remember to push with one leg while the other was waiting for the pedal to come back up.
We develop habits by the act of doing things repeatedly. The cool part is we get to choose to develop new good habits or break old bad habits.
Doing the little things repeatedly is repetition. Think about a person who is really good at ballet or playing a musical instrument. They became good because they practiced over and over again. They got good because of their rituals of repetition.
2. The ritual of simply doing one thing, and only one thing, at a time
If you want to choose to start a new good habit or break a bad habit, focus is huge.
I’m ADHD and I’ve learned to become very focused. How? The ritual of simply doing one thing at a time.
When trying to accomplish a task, I used to be all over the place. I would do things like check my social media when I would be in a meeting or worse, teaching a class or when I was spending time with family and friends?
Another bad lack of focus habit I chose was to drive and then text. I realized that if I wanted to try and stay out of a car wreck, I needed to break the habit of texting while driving. Whew…I did!
Marc Chernoff says, “When you get in the habit of persistently dividing your attention, you’re partially engaged in every activity, but rarely focused on any one activity. And this dizzying lack of focus eventually trips you up and brings you down to your knees.”
Commercial airline pilots say that the habit of great focus is no doubt the most important element of flying a commercial jet.
3. The ritual of starting small
I like getting up early in the morning to exercise, read and be contemplative. I hate rushing in the morning before work. So, in order to have more of the peaceful morning time which I wanted, this meant I needed to get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and no longer 5:30. Yikes! This was not so easy at first. I started small. I began to get up at 5:25 and then the next day 5:20 and suddenly a week later, it was easy to get up at 5:00. I started small.
A friend of mine has run a lot of marathons. That’s over 26 miles! I asked how in the world she was able to do such a feat. The answer, she started small. My friend said she would begin training by just jogging a mile one day and then the next day she would jog a mile and a quarter. She said by doing this small approach to run a marathon was the key to her being able to go 26.2 miles three months later.
If you only remember two words from this lesson, let them be: You and Choose. You get what I get and the other 7.5 billion people on planet earth get…free will to choose.
And, please and let me know what you think of this post. What was helpful and things you have done which have helped you? Your feedback is important to me. 🙂