The Building New Habits Season is here!
“In many ways, September feels like the busiest time of the year: The kids go back to school, work piles up after the summer’s dog days, and Thanksgiving is suddenly upon us.” ~ Brene Brown
I love so many things to love about September. Sweater weather! The return of my beloved Levi’s jacket! Crisp morning walks! The last dregs of summer!
There’s also the desire to get back to routine after a lax summer, and the nervous excitement of Back to School season — we are conditioned to see this as real New Year. But there’s another thing that happens to so many of us. Not but a few days after Labour Day (sometimes the night OF Labour Day), suddenly all the anticipation, expectation and struggle to renew healthy habits and routines washes over us like a tsunami of emotional angst.
The thing is, we want to be our best selves each September. That New Year feeling makes us crave transformation, rebirth, as though we will wake up the morning after Labour Day completely perfect. For me, this perfectionist fantasy looks like:
- Wake up 5:50 a.m. Immediately make my bed, then meditate for 10 minutes.
- Feed the cat, put the coffee on, then go do stretches or yoga for 10-15, because I know that I will be bendy like Gumby if I do that consistently.
- Do my Kickstartology homework: 10-20 minutes of journaling to set my intention and actions for the day, because that creates my awesome life.
- Call Steph and have our 15-minute morning scrum.
I’m working on it, but so far, like many of you, I’m spending a lot of September nights scrolling through Instagram (AKA the past), looking at people’s summer memories or kids’ first days of school, rather than using the present moment to program my future (or go the eff to sleep so I can program my future with my optimal morning routine). What is it about missing the mark that feels so crappy? I’m hoping Steph talks about the “Trying to Try Loop” below, because I know that’s where I’m often stuck.
If you have children in your life who go to school, this might mean you are suddenly shouldering their similar feelings, too. Not to mention the million tasks that come with getting them on the road to success: helping to foster new friendships, listening to the ups and downs of the school day and environment, shepherding homework, RSVPing to invites, etc.
There’s also the rush of the office after a summer of vacations and not having a full staff as a result, plus the impending deadlines of the impending Q4 rush. All of this to say, it’s not you, it’s September. Breathe.
What’s been different for me about this September is that Steph and I are coaching a group of inspiring women all summer. And by revisiting the material each week, I’m following along. When we tracked our time for a week, I also did. When we tried to time how long we could go without complaining for a week, I joined in (I lasted about four hours). The thing about the coaching program is that it teaches inquiry and reflection, so you start to notice what you end up doing that derails your day, or puts up a roadblock between you and your goals. September ever and how I overcame it. Because I believe writing is a powerful tool for shaping the future, I have a hunch that what I’ve written above is going to tie into that story somehow. Writing about it here makes me want to build new habits and be accountable to my 5:50 a.m. dream. Will I stay off Instagram after 9 p.m.? Will I get to bed by 10 p.m. to make this all happen? (Nail biter!!) Stay tuned.
Nadine, if you don’t even know if you will stay off Instagram after 9pm, I can guarantee that you won’t. You hoped I’d bring up the Trying to Try Loop…and I will. You have tried to stop scrolling and go to bed earlier for a long time now. Sometimes you try different tricks or tools, but you are still coming at the same habit from the same place. Until one of those things changes (either what you are trying to change, or your approach/thoughts about it) your results are not going to, and you will be caught in the Trying to Try Loop. This loop involves you thinking “this time I’m really going to try” and maybe succeeding in the short term, but never the long term.
Building New Habits: Two Questions to Answer First:
#1. Do you actually really want to stop scrolling social media and go to sleep earlier? I don’t think that you do right now, because if you really wanted to you would.
#2. Why “should” you change this habit? How will your life be different in a year if you can change this? How can you emotionally connect to this reason so that you are actually into it?
(Side note, if the reason doesn’t actually interest you, don’t bother changing the habit. Even if you “should”)
The thing about building new habits that annoys me the most is that habits are so much easier to plan than they are to follow through on. I’ve also fallen prey to the Perfectionist Fantasy… the plan that always starts tomorrow or on a Monday and that includes a perfect morning routine, maximum efficiency all day, not putting anything off ever, reasonable bed-times, and of course working out and eating well. The problem with the Perfectionist Fantasy as a plan, is that it is impossible, and it gets you in the habit of disappointing yourself and not following through. I’m now rebuilding my approach to planning so that I can count on myself. If I can count on myself for the day-to-day, I will be able to count on myself for the big goals. So many different concepts are going into this challenge, but the one I will highlight for now is the idea of my tasks being “non-negotiable”.