Do you run your life or does it run you?
Sometimes – particularly in this stage of life where we are raising kids and trying to make ends meet – it can feel like the latter. We are in a constant state of reaction, just trying to stay afloat.
I really want to exercise more but I just can’t seem to get started.
Why did I just finish off that entire chip packet?
I probably shouldn’t have binge-watched that show on Netflix.
Oh great. We’re out of milk. I knew there was something I was forgetting.
Does your internal script run a little like this one? Are there things in life that you just can’t seem to master, no matter how much willpower you have? And if this is the case for us, how much more difficult must it be for our kids?
We fall into the trap of talking about success in school as if it depends on brains alone when it is one’s systems of operation that are far more crucial in predicting outcomes.
The New York Times Bestseller ‘Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones’ has a lot to say on this topic. After experiencing a significant head injury while in high school, author James Clear had to rebuild his life piece by piece and accidentally stumbled upon the power of habits. Or as he puts it: ‘changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.’
This discovery set him upon a path to understand everything he could about how our brains work, what research shows is most effective and what impact biology has upon our ability to create healthy habits.
Goals or Systems?
Are you a New Year’s Resolution kind of person? Are you filled with hope on January 1 that somehow, this year will be different?
Unfortunately, while this mentality sounds great in theory, our goals or hopes actually aren’t the most important thing. For, as Clear points out, we do not rise to the level of our goals – we fall to the level of our systems. It is our systems that hold the key to unlocking success.
‘The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.’ When we focus on our processes, we put in place building blocks that will create a life we want to live, bit by bit.
We all have habits – they just may not be serving us or the vision of who we want to be. But, when we understand that habits are like ‘the compound interest of self-improvement’ we can choose – do we want time to be our ally or our enemy? Every day getting just 1% better will eventually lead to exponential results. Choosing to stay stagnant or make the same mistakes will only lead to negative results over time.
So what can we do to get started?
Link Habits to Identity
Everything we do flows out of who we think we are. If you think you have a bad memory, you won’t remember people’s names. If you think you always lose things, you will.
Instead of aiming for what we want to achieve, we need to ask ‘who do we want to be’? If you want to read more, call yourself a reader. If you want to lose weight, start thinking of yourself as a runner (or begin asking ‘what would a healthy person do?’).
When our kids are struggling with their studies, we can help them to see themselves as ‘hard workers’. Or maybe we could start by asking them the question ‘what would a great learner do right now?’
For it is important to remember, that ‘every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.’
Habits Are Like Seeds
You may not be able to see anything for some time, but as we begin planting these tiny seeds, something amazing happens.
Our identities transform into more positive life-stories. Our daily actions begin to yield strong roots and branches of hope. Students who saw themselves as ‘hopeless’ begin to take a step into a new version of reality and separate from that ‘old story’.
‘You have the power to change your beliefs about yourself. Your identity is not set in stone. You have a choice in every moment. You can choose the identity you want to reinforce today with the habits you choose today.’ – James Clear
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the Four Laws of Behaviour Change and figuring out how we can use this framework to implement great habits and banish bad ones. If you like delving deep into these topics, why don’t you join us on Facebook to continue the conversation?
All photos sourced from Pexels.