2016 Habits: Forming Better Habits
Sometimes, you just don’t have a goal.
Our weeklong Alaskan vacation creeped up on me faster than I thought it would (I’m working on a post about our trip — which was fantastic — so stay tuned!) and I had a whole pile of things to think about.
I have been training with Kevin for almost two years now and I had the horrible realization that I didn’t have a clear fitness goal. I knew I had achieved the initial strength goals I had set for myself… so now what?
I was curious to discover a few ways to shift my diet. We’ve been following a modified FODMAP diet and we’ve been focused on better meal-planning, but I felt stuck.
Work has been busy and generally going well, but I felt a little disconnected from my long-term goals again.
And so on.
I decided it might be interesting to get a new perspective on goals and habits, so I had packed Gretchen Rubin’s latest book, Better Than Before, to read during our vacation.
Yes, I read books about behavior change on my vacation.
Rubin shares a model (The Four Tendencies) to help sort yourself:
The Upholder meets outer expectations and inner expectations.
The Questioner resists outer expectations but meets inner expectations.
The Obliger meets outer expectations but resists inner expectations.
The Rebel resists both inner and outer expectations.
Her theory is that understanding this about ourselves will help us better understand how to form habits. I am probably an Upholder with a rising secondary of Questioner (thanks, engineers I work with).
The book shares a lot of ideas to help you find ways to stick to you new habits. As someone who reads many books about this subject, there weren’t a lot of ideas I hadn’t heard, but she did a fantastic job of organizing it into the process, from how and when to start a new habit and what to do when you start making excuses.
One thing that resonated with me was her suggestion to use changes in environment, situation, or location to kick off a change. Even though many of us turn to new goals on January 1st, she argues that moving, changing jobs, or a change in a relationship are more likely to result in lasting behavior change (so there is something to getting into shape after a break-up after all).
I’m not pursuing any big changes at the moment. In fact, when I reflect on the successful changes I’ve had this year, they have been more of the micro-variety. I’m living a pretty happy life, so experimenting with small tweaks has been helpful.
There is such a thing as tweak-exhaustion — not to be confused with twerk-exhaustion, thank you! — and maybe I am hitting that now. As someone who spends more or less her entire professional life helping people decide upon and implenent change for themselves or their teams, I know that there needs to be the drive and desire to do something different, and without that the change cannot happen.
If I step back and look at my 2016 intention, Gratitude, this might actually be a lesson in stopping and appreciating what is. It’s sort of a rest stop on the lifelong journey of self-improvement and learning. The bustle of behavior change can get tiring, so maybe I deserve a break?
The nasty little voice in the back of my head would tell you (and me) that you never get a break, that it isn’t deserved. I can conjure it up rather easily — “Who are you to say you are finished? There are so many things you aren’t good at, and how are you going to get there if you don’t get started? Who do you think you are, anyway?”
And that is the paradox of my life — feeling contentment with who I am and excitement for who I will be.
Where does that leave me? I’m still sitting in a place where I don’t know what exactly I want to pursue. Maybe I am, as my trainer Kevin told me, living my goal. Or maybe there is something there.
Sometimes you just need the space to figure it out. But if you don’t (and you already know), I highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book.
And you know I’ll be back with my next step. My stretch goal is to set a small behavioral goal for September. And we all know what I like to do to goals — destroy them :)
P.S. ohmygoodness, y’all. A-l-a-s-k-a. It was wild and beautiful and untamed and rainy. I can’t wait to share more with you!