When I color coded my habit tracking spreadsheet, I thought it was just going to be a fun way to categorize my habits and make my spreadsheet nice to look at. I didn’t realize that it would also encourage and reinforce moderation, balance and slow, sustainable changes. I didn’t know that it would discourage obsessing over one particular area of lifestyle at the expense of other areas. And yet, that’s exactly what it is doing.
See, I started with just a couple habits, and at current count, I have 17 habits that I track on my spreadsheet. That means I have adopted that many life and health enriching habits over the last 14 months.
But if you look at any one area of my lifestyle….some areas don’t look THAT different. Let’s talk about food, since that is the area where most people try to make the largest number of habit changes all at the same time. In the food arena, the only habit changes I have made involve eating more vegetables and taking my Vitamin D regularly. Giving up trying to control everything about my food intake has allowed me to chill the fuck out, and learn to recognize my hunger and satiety signals in a way I haven’t been able to do since I was very young. That outcome wasn’t forced; it came naturally when I STOPPED trying to control my food intake.
Even though I have only made a few small changes in each area, just a couple small, sustainable, consistently practiced changes in many areas has been enough for me to notice big differences in my quality of life. If I were still busy obsessing over my diet or my weight, I would probably still be miserable. But instead, every time I chose a new habit, I focused on what I felt would be most helpful to me AND that I felt excited to work on…and now my life feels completely different, and nothing about this process has been difficult or painful at all! 17 habit changes in a span of 14 months will really change your life…but I doubt most people can make and sustain that number of habit changes in one single area in that span of time. For me, relaxing and broadening the focus has been life-changing.
If you are finding yourself getting frustrated with a habits based approach, maybe it’s time to ask yourself some questions:
- “Am I trying to control an outcome more than I am trying to enjoy the process?”
- “Am I focusing all my habits in one area, and trying to make too many changes in too short an amount of time?”
- “Am I working on habits that I WANT to work on, or did I choose habits I felt obligated to work on (either due to pressure from myself, my family, my friends, my healthcare provider)?
There are so many positive habits one can adopt. So don’t be afraid to pick one you like, even if it puts another area of your lifestyle on the back burner in the present moment. The key is sustainability and consistency – and I strongly believe that enjoyment and ease contribute a great deal to sustainability and consistency.
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