Oddly enough, all my pictures from New Year’s Eve are missing important details. Like my forehead. But it sure was fun!
Now that all the bubbles and sequins are done, today I’m going to hand you something even better. These humble tools might not sparkle, but they sure are useful.
You’re probably hearing a lot of this:
- What are you going to accomplish in 2014?
- What enormous dreams are you going to make come true?
- What big milestones do you want to hit?
These questions are like shiny race cars. They’re really pretty. But see, I believe that the answers to those questions aren’t NEARLY as important as your answer to this one:
What habits will you stick with?
Your habits are your tools. They’re what make the race cars GO.
We can’t control huge portions of our lives. We fall in love, someone gets sick, or we get a job offer or phone call or pregnancy test that folds our whole lives into before and after. The marathon gets canceled, the book deal falls through at the last minute, the circus tent topples.
But what we are always in control over is how we spend the most mundane aspects of our lives.
- I can’t control whether I get published, but I can control whether I sit down and write.
- I can’t make my home bigger, but I can keep it clean and beautiful and gracious.
- I can’t skew the stock market in my favor, but I can pay attention to my investments.
- I can’t control my daughter’s behavior, but I can model kindness and keep my word.
I can do little things too, little things that add up:
- wash the dishes every night
- check in on my finances weekly
- go to book club every month
- wear perfume and earrings every day
- remember to breathe when I’m upset
- set a daily priority
- set weekly priorities
- set monthly priorities (are you sensing a theme here?)
These habits aren’t sexy, but they bring a huge return of order and beauty into my life given the small amount of energy they require. They are the tools that keep my life humming along smoothly.
Think about the habits that give you the most bang for your buck. Maybe you don’t care about the dishes, but you really need to remember not to eat wheat. Maybe you don’t like earrings or perfume, but you love that hour at the office dedicated to important projects BEFORE you check email.
Or maybe everything in life is better when you exercise. Or meditate. Or check your oil every 500 miles. Whatever.
One of the big problems with New Year’s Resolutions is that they point out a grand destination without paying attention to the vehicle that’s going to get you there. So you might decide you’re going to lose 20 pounds, or save $20,000, or write 2000 words a day– but if you don’t have any consistent habits or systems in place to support those goals, you’re setting yourself up to sputter out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for dreaming big. My dreams are shiny roadsters; my goals so grand they make me blush.
But I know the quickest way to get there is by paying attention to the humble machinery that will get me there: my body, my clarity, the way I interact with my time and space and money. Big goals like ‘be a wonderful mother’ are pretty unhelpful without a commitment to the most humdrum of details: bedtimes, good food, fresh air, downtime.
So right now, think of one habit that helps everything else go better.
What if you did it every day this coming week? Not forever, just for a week! And then you could decide if you wanted to keep going… or not.
(psst. Yes, I just used a cognitive trick on you. By deliberately shooting for an easily attainable goal, we circumvent the mental resistance to new habits. This is why you should shoot for tiny changes rather than huge ones; your brain is less likely to beat you with a stick and distract you with shiny objects.)
Also, for what it’s worth, I’m in this with you.
Here’s one of the new habits I’m trying to make stick: I’m going to move my body–as in, stagger and pant and kvetch–for at least four days this coming week.
(that’s another good trick. By telling you that I’m going to do it, I’m raising the stakes for myself. I’m much more likely to get out there and work my butt off when I know I’ll feel sheepish next Friday if I have to tell you I didn’t do it! You can do the same thing using friends, Facebook, or an accountability buddy.)
Wishing you grand tinkering, glorious repairs, and oh-so-humble triumphs this coming year–