When we’re headed someplace new, we have to not only know where we’re going and why, but we also have to keep track of where we are so we know when to turn (apple orchard), when to take a break (someone wants ice cream/everybody has to pee), how to get back on the road if we get lost (keep the lake to your left), and how far we’ve come (hey! We’re already in Rhode Island? We’re halfway there!).
THIS APPLIES TO NEW HABITS, TOO!
When it comes to habits and goals, tracking progress helps us:
When we stay consistently tuned in to our hopes and actions, we’re more mindful of our good intentions and can keep them simmering on the front burner.
Charting the journey as we go along allows us to see any emerging patterns–so we’re better able to understand and adjust our behaviors as needed.
3. keep going
Noting the movement we’re making toward our goals is one of the best ways to feel optimistic, stay motivated, and keep our spirits and momentum up.
I use a simple grid, listing my habit-goals down the left-hand column (“write”, “meditate”, and “only love”, for example) then checking the corresponding boxes as I go, day by day. I print it out and stick it to my fridge at eye-level (with my octopus-reading-a-book magnet), so
a. It’s in my face all the time, and
b. I can check the boxes easily as I swim by.
This seemingly simple act has been a game-changer for me; with it, I’ve been able to keep my intentions extra-clear and more present in my daily life, which has really helped me level-up in these areas.
I like this habit tracker from Evermore Paper Co., and have been using it for the last year-plus with great results.
And remember, this is a TOOL – not a judge or jury. It’s an OPPORTUNITY, not a teacher shaking its finger at you because you forgot to do your homework, or because the proverbial dog actually did eat it (it happens!). Think of it like a friend who offers you ongoing motivation and information, and be friendly with yourself as you check or leave blank your box(es) for the day.
The path to bettering anything is a wave, not a knife-blade. Roll with it and remember to enjoy the process – because the process is your life! Pretty sure that’s how this thing works. ( ;
SOME SURPRISING (AND HELPFUL!) INSIGHTS ABOUT HABITS
There are plenty of amazing books about habits (see a few below!), and the next one on my to-read shelf is psychologist Wendy Wood’s Good Habits, Bad Habits.
Check out this great article and interview about her book and work! >>>
Social sciences journalist Shankar Vedantam, of the Hidden Brain podcast, also aired a really interesting conversation with Dr. Wood earlier this month. I caught it on NPR one morning while eating my peanut butter toast, and I highly recommend giving it a listen if you’re interested in the science behind why you do what you habitually do (ie. flick on the radio and lean against the counter to look out the window and eat your peanut butter toast).
KNOW THYSELF! Self-knowledge is the bedrock of self-regulation.
And lastly (but never leastly!) . . .
Here are a few books that I’ve found to be extremely helpful and accessible when it comes to understanding how goals and habits work, the relationship and ripple effect between them, and some best practices for designing and activating new ones.
May they help light your way as they have mine.
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, by Twyla Tharp
Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want, by Barbara Sher
The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
As always, please consider supporting your local independent bookstore if you decide to purchase these or others. Remember – your vote is your superpower! If you enjoy wandering in actual bookstores (who doesn’t?! I know I’m biased, but still), it’s on you to keep voting for them. Most will ship books right to your door, too! If you don’t have a brick-and-mortar bookstore in your area, bookshop.org is a great option for ordering; they support small bookstores all over the country. Happy reading, and happy habit-ing!
Want to learn more? Let’s connect! I offer complimentary consultations and would love to explore working together.
Breathe, love, be well, and stay tuned for more! xo, ali