I never bought into the ‘multi-tasker’ thing, even when it was mega-important to be one of (all of?) those kinds of people back in the nineties. You HAD to have ‘great at multi-tasking’ written somewhere on your CV or you were toast. That was the theory anyway. Instead, I always wrote the thing that I actually am good at. “Great ability to focus and get the job done”.
Strangely enough, while I was busy applying said focus to corporate work projects, I wasn’t bringing this important skill into my actual life. Instead, I was busy trying to change all the things and fix all the things and be all the things all at once. I never focused on a single thing and as a result, I never got anything done. Which brings us neatly to Step 8…
How to break a bad habit
Step 8. Focus, focus, focus
Sometimes when we are on our way to making nice changes in our life, there is a tendency to want to change all the bad stuff, all at once. We’re on a roll and we just keep adding more and more good habits into our routine and kicking out the old ones. We start with wanting stop eating chocolate and a couple of days in we are doing so well we think, “look at me go! I’m so good at this! I’m gonna stop eating cheese while I’m at it! And I’m feeling so gooood I may as well give up chips, ice cream, cream, bread – all the bread, every kind and pasta too – and kranskys. Yep, kranskys have gotta go too.”
We are delighted with ourselves! We’ve felt so rotten about our poor habits for so long that feeling this good about ourselves is potent. We can move mountains! With our bare hands! Blindfolded!
We feel THAT good… until we don’t.
What happens when we start adding more and more good intentions into the mix is that we overwhelm ourselves and end up crashing straight back into all our comfy old bad habits. Sometimes we add an extra couple of bad habits in just because after days / weeks / months of deprivation we deserve it.
I’m a classic “all or nothing” person, so I totally get this. In the past this was me to a T. “I’m gonna get healthy! I’m gonna stop drinking diet coke, I’m gonna stop eating chocolate, I’m gonna start exercising, I’m gonna cut back on portions, I’m gonna stop eating after dinner, I’m gonna, gonna, gonna.” What I was really gonna do was fail. Over and over again I tried to change myself completely and I always, always failed. Of course I did.
I’m still an “all or nothing” person, but these days I give that all to one bad habit at a time. I knock them down and its only when I’ve found my new comfy that I start tackling another one. This is working for me so well. This year alone I’ve changed the following:
- Started eating breakfast every day (I didn’t eat anything at all for breakfast for about 25 years prior)
- Do morning stretches every day
- Make at least 80% of the food we eat from scratch
- Eat at least one piece of fruit each day (I’m a huge vegetable eater, but fruit never got a look in and even now my ‘piece of fruit’ might be a blueberry… but it’s one more blueberry than I was eating before!)
- Walk to and from school at least once a week (we generally mange twice or even three times, but once is the achievable habit that I’m sticking with)
- Stop drinking diet coke (yay!)
- And now I’m onto the next bad habit on my list: Stop snacking at night. I’m up to day 5 on my second chart… you can find out more about that here.
I’m really proud of the big changes I’ve made and especially proud of ending my silly “do all the things NOW” kind of attitude. I know we get caught up in all that “I’m gonna be a whole neeeeew meeeee” thing – but let’s just not, okay? Pick the bad habit you are ready to change and focus on it until it’s done. Then you can move onto the next one when you are completely ready.
Homework for today
You’ve made some serious lists about your habits, but which one will you tackle first? There are two ways of deciding this:
- Tackle the easiest habit to break first
- Tackle the habit that will have the nicest consequences first
Today, all you need to do is to decide on a habit and strip off all the layers around it (generally the outcomes) so you can focus on the core of the issue. What is it you are really trying to solve?
Seriously, what is it you are really trying to solve?