Doing well in school, being accepted to college, earning scholarships, becoming fit, eating healthy and getting enough sleep all have something in common. They will happen automatically for those who develop the right habits. I’ve read it takes 21 days to acquire or change a habit. Breaking this down into small steps makes doing so fairly easy.
I’ll use healthy eating as an example. The way I tackled this is the way I tackle anything I want to improve in my life. Biting off too much at once never works. So I take it slow. Several years ago I read an article about a study on the health benefit of eating nuts. I decided I wanted those benefits, so I made a plan to increase how many nuts I ate.
That is step one in creating a new habit, begin with the end in mind (like Stephen Covey recommends). The article ranked a large number of varieties of nuts by how many nutrients they contained. I started from the top, and wrote down five I enjoy eating. I didn’t bother writing down the ones I don’t like, since I know I won’t eat them anyway.
The article mentioned nuts stay fresh longer if refrigerated. I bought several glass Mason jars, and the five varieties of nuts I selected. I washed and dried the jars and filled each with one variety of nuts. I’ve refilled the jars many times since I made the decision to eat more nuts. I eat them on salads, cereal, and oatmeal and as a snack. Eating nuts is a habit now.
Let’s look at eliminating a bad habit. Many people are on their phones instead of chatting with family face to face, reading books, studying for a test, completing homework, applying for a college scholarship, etc. This is an easy habit to acquire, and some think it’s difficult to break. I disagree. Once you’ve made the decision, the rest is just details. Decide when you want to be on your phone, instead of everything else there is to do in the world.
Write those times down, take a look and reassess. Is this the best use of your time? If not, make changes to the schedule. If it is, then go on the next step. Let’s say you only want to be on your phone for two hours after coming home after work or school. When you enter the house, take out your phone and turn it off, not to mute or vibrate, but off. Put the phone on a table or in a drawer near the front door.
Now do whatever else you want to do. When the time you’ve allotted for phone use arrives, go to the table, take out your phone and turn it on. Then set an alarm for two hours. When the alarm sounds, turn the alarm and your phone off, and replace it where you’re keeping it. After a few days, this will become a habit. I keep my phone in a bowl on the table in my foyer. It’s there now, while I’m here, in my office, writing this blog post. It’s just what I do. It’s a habit.
Getting fit is simple too. This week someone I follow on Twitter posted a graphic of several ab exercises that won’t hurt your back. I printed it and will add one of these exercises to my already established workout routine. After about three weeks it will be a habit, so I’ll add another from the list. I’ll repeat this process until all the ones I want to do are part of my routine. Doing them will be habitual.
I look at goals like the old joke about eating an elephant. How do you eat one, or tackle acquiring good habits? Take one bite or one step at a time. You can do better in school, be accepted to college, earn scholarships, become fit, eat healthy and get enough sleep by making the decision and taking the first step. Repeat until what you need to do to reach your goal has become a habit.
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