My real (not "reel") habit story for 2022.
If I looked at your habits today, what would I conclude about your life? Uncomfortable question? Yeah - for me too.
Lean into it.
This discomfort could save your life.
It is, in fact, saving mine.
Today, I’m sharing a difficult story in hopes that you can stand on my experience instead of walking through it like I did.
Stick with me…
I never realized the life-or-death value of habits until a few years ago. Habits are easy to ignore, but they are *LITERALLY* the building blocks of your life. This means, for example, that if I have a consistent building block of mindlessly scrolling on social media, I’m quite literally building a life that mindlessly consumes social media.
Is that what I want?
When I’m old, I’m guessing I that won’t make the grandkid story cut.
Let’s try it on for size: Grandkid: “Grandma, tell me a story of when you were young!”... “Well, let's see… for at least an hour every day, I’d scroll through my phone and look at what everyone else was doing with their lives. Then I would subconsciously compare myself to them and feel terrible about my inadequacies.” …. (Said no grandparent ever.)
Several months ago, I was stuck with some bad habits that I was unintentionally forming for myself and my kids.
This is not a “highlight reel” story, but I’m not here for the reel. I’m here for the real. If I can HELP, you ACHIEVE, I’ve won. So here’s the real:
My daughters and I were struggling.
Specifically with attitudes around school. Over the past three years, I tried all the bells and whistles to make school more fun, or make my teaching more energetic, or adapt the assignments, to play the “cool teacher” part.
I felt like I was running laps around my kids in a three-ring circus --with pom poms.
All my efforts were fruitlessly met with a big fat fail when my (enneagram 7) daughter would inform me that school was boring. Are you kidding me?! If I’m anything, I will not be known as boring. Nor will the school that I teach.
What a way to start the day - every day - knowing that your daughter thinks your back-breaking efforts are boring. Love you too hun.
Not to jump too deeply into the enneagram, but I’m a 2w3 (and when I say wing 3, it’s a strong wing 3)... This means that I am first a HELPER - and second, an ACHIEVER. In other words, I get deep, (oddly visceral) satisfaction over helping other people succeed. I’ll give you one guess how it grates on my personality to have my kid wake up every day and (in more words than one) tell me that I’m failing at helping them.
It’s like knocking the wind out of my personality. Not only am I not helpful, I’m everything but achieving.
If you’ve ever gotten the *actual* wind knocked out of you, you’ll understand what I mean. The first time I got the wind knocked out of me… I was *fairly certain* I was dying. My brain requested oxygen to which my body replied, “Fat chance… you’re dying”. It not only feels horrid, it is psychologically terrifying.
Same with living out of alignment with your personality - it feels horrid and it is psychologically terrifying.
“But I thought we were talking about habits?”
That’s how sneaky those little habits are. You form them WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING you are forming them.
In all of my efforts, I was making unhealthy habits for myself and my kids without realizing what I was doing.
They were creating the habit of school consumerism… This idea that they need to be “thrilled” in order to pay attention. I was making the habit of running around like a headless chicken trying to please unpleasable people.
And that, my friends, is a recipe for life disaster.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to accidentally fall into bad habits. Fortunately, better habits are *literally* a CHOICE away.
If you haven’t read James Clear’s Atomic Habits book, I highly suggest it. In it, he unpacks the power of identifying as the person you’d like to be - and then making habits that support that identity.
For example, he explains that you can identify as “a person who works out every day” and then you choose the teeny tiniest ways to prove it to yourself every day. - Like putting on your running shoes… ONLY. I thought he was all stuff and nonsense until I started applying this in my life in different areas. When you prove something to your brain, you’re teaching it to see things that it couldn’t see before. “I’m a person who works out every day - and look at that… my running shoes are on”. After you master the teeny tiny habit, you take the next step. Not only do you have your running shoes on every day, but you might as well go for a walk because you’re all ready… and just like that - you’re a person who works out every day.
In our homeschool situation, I realized that our habits needed some work.
At the beginning of this school year, I realized that if I desperately need a way to track my habits, so do my kids. I found a simple habit tracker and explained to my girls that this was going to help us with our daily “building blocks”. Of course, incentives make anything more fun, so I put a “carrot” at the end of the chart known as a toy they DESPERATELY wanted.
We kept the habits on their tracker simple - (which is the secret magic potion for any habit according to James Clear… make it DOABLE) We put things like, “Drink water”; "brush your teeth after breakfast"; say "yes mom", on their lists.
Rather than me running around trying to single handedly perform a three-ring circus for them, we completely shifted the focus to teeny, tiny, daily habits that would build the life we want. Things as simple as drinking water and brushing our teeth after breakfast.
You know what (one of the) biggest wins of this WHOLE experiment is?! ... MY GIRLS ARE BEGGING ME to start another round now that we have their trackers all filled out. -- They are learning the satisfaction of building good habits and having a reward for doing so.
To say this was easy would be a lie.
To say this was brilliantly valuable and transformational would be the truth.
Unfortunately, no one ever said valuable things were going to be easy.
Ann Voskamp’s quote hit me between the eyes yesterday as I was looking toward the new year of habits I wanted to cultivate.
She said: “Life is Pain — and you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.”
I had to read it several times, so maybe you do too:
“Life is Pain — and you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.”
How is this WOW and OW all in the same moment for me?!
The beauty is that we get to CHOOSE our pain!
Strategically working on habits with my kids is NOT easy….
But purposeful life- building is surely easier than running around trying to tame the lions of my “Circus”.
I know Christmas is over, but I have to share these pictures again, because THESE are the faces of girls who worked HARD to form good habits. Just before Christmas, they filled out their entire chart and this is what it looked like when they got their (long awaited) prize:
Someone once said to obsess about your inputs rather than your outcomes.
I think sometimes we obsess about our outcomes and forget that inputs even exist. The only trouble is, THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE OUR OUTCOMES IS BY CHANGING OUR INPUTS!!!!!!!!
So, let’s take a look at those inputs this year.
Rather than throwing out semi unachievable new year’s resolutions, what if we just picked 3 new year's teeny tiny input/habits? And then what if we tracked them?
“They” say that what is tracked grows… So, what do you want to grow this year?
Do you want to be a more patient mom? What’s a TINY (I’m talking itty bitty) habit you can do towards that goal? Maybe try and smile at your kids 5 times a day - and then TRACK it.
Want to be healthier? How about an itty-bitty habit of TRACKING your water intake?
Want to be a better wife? How about an itty-bitty habit of saying thank you to your husband every day and then TRACKING it to watch the habit grow.
Want to have a less cluttered home? How about an itty-bitty habit of TRACKING 5 minutes of decluttering every day?
Want to have a better marriage? How about an itty-bitty habit of TRACKING 5 minutes of praying together every day?
Want to start a new business venture? How about TRACKING an itty-bitty habit of listening to something like the EntreLeadership podcast and taking some notes once a week?
Whomever you want to be, remember that it is made up of your tiny little habits that you are forming this MOMENT.
Lucky for you, you just read a whole blog about being intentional… which is a terrific habit. Good work. Now let’s figure out how to make a habit out of it ;)
WOW!!! You're *obviously* awesome because you just took the time to read a whole blog about intentionality. Good work, you!
How can I help you create awesome habits?
If you don't know me, I'm Liz Gerdes, and I'd like to be your cheerleader.
My husband and I are dairy farmers in SE MN and friends to anyone who is interested.
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