Why habits are a necessary ingredient for navigating change
February 05, 2020
Good morning!

As I shift from my morning reading habit to my morning writing habit, it’s raining here in Western Arkansas.

While I haven’t checked, my guess is that milk, bread, and toilet paper are flying off the shelves - because there’s snow and sleet in the forecast for the next 24 hours or so.

It’s how we roll in a region that gets very little snow.

I’ve joked for years that Walmart headquarters in Bentonville just an hour-ish up the road is in cahoots with The Weather Channel.

Forecast snow so we can sell some stuff!

Of course, that’s a joke.

I bring the whole thing up in the first place because today I’m writing about why it’s necessary for us to understand and learn how to implement the science of habit if we are to successfully navigate change.

When our local meteorologists mention even the possibility of snow, people stock up on grocery items - even when, most of the time, travel is treacherous for just a few hours. 

And “treacherous” is a generous term. 

Still, I’m making a note to make sure we have bread and some good cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbells Tomato Bisque soup because if it does snow overnight, we’ll absolutely hafta have that for lunch. Before the snow melts.

See what I mean about habits?

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

I’m reading Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by Stanford professor BJ Fogg.

He’s generously hosting a multi-week Zoom course for those who purchased the book - and walking us through each chapter.

During the introductory call, Fogg talked about the nuance between the idea that change is easy versus change can be easy.

I balked at the idea that change can be easy - until I thought about it.

We humans change every day with little to no effort at all. 

Pretty often, we tag those behaviors “bad habits.” 

Since we only get snow one day a year, don’t @me with the idea that grilled cheese sandwiches on snow days are bad. ;-)

So change can be easy. Sometimes.

Fogg’s premise of tiny habits is shedding light on this new idea that even good change can be fun.

For three years or so, I’ve been terribly inconsistent at my morning routine - especially the reading and writing parts.

I’d set goals of “read one page per day” or “write 500 words per day.” 

Still, I just didn’t do them.

Until I tried the Fogg method, which led me to pin my reading and writing habit to something I already do every morning - sit down in my desk chair.

Now, the two books I’m reading are waiting for me in my chair, so that it’s easiest for me to read them after I sit because they’re in my hands anyway.

My writing goal is simply, “Open Ulysses” - which is my writing app.

Using this method, I wrote more than 10,000 words last month and published nineteen short pieces.

Enough not-so-humble bragging. 

Why IS habit formation necessary for change navigation?

Bob Goff is one of my newest writing heroes. 

He explains in Live in Grace, Walk in Love that love is a habit called “joy.” 

Joy’s keeper is gratitude.

How do we make joy a habit in our everyday lives so our reflex is always love for people around us? I can’t think of a better way than gratitude. When we’re intentional about giving thanks for everything we come across, we can’t help but feel joy over the pure gift of another day. And when our joy has become a habit, our love becomes a way of living.

Author James Clear explains how our identities are knotted up in our habits and how we feel about them reflects how we feel about us.

This vicious cycle of beating ourselves up spirals and spirals and we no longer know how to be kind to ourselves. We no longer know how to set reasonable expectations and achievable objectives with weight loss, fitness, career goals, family objectives, and standards for behavior. We lose sight of who we are and what we can become. 

Professor Fogg explains that we humans are our own worst enemy sometimes when it comes to navigating change. 

We know habits matter; we just need more good habits and fewer bad ones. But here we are, still struggling to change. Still thinking it’s our fault.

Fogg then offers 3 suggestions for designing behavior change:
  • Stop judging ourselves
  • Take our aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors
  • Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward

Our habits influence how we see ourselves, our relationships and our relationship to the universe.

As a result, habits have profound impacts on our relationships.

Habits re-wire our brains and influence how we think.

Habits change our mindsets.

These are the changes that teach us to accept what we cannot change, help us develop the courage to change the things we can change, and find the wisdom to know the difference.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. 

Note: This is the second article about the necessary truths about change navigation.

Principle 1: Nobody can sell you change, you’ve got to WANT it.

Principle 2: Understanding that the world is - at best - indifferent to me.

Principle 3: Habits matter.

Principle 4: The Clint Eastwood Principle of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Interested in more ideas like this?

I typically post a few times a week.

Thanks for reading.

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