I’ve been thinking about habits. Probably because I read two really great books about habits last week.
A few months ago, I posted a blog about my goal for this year of taking 200 walks and reading 200 books. I pointed out that I was having an easy time adding in more reading because it was already familiar to me. I'm not a brain scientist, but my guess is that the brain paths for reading are already built. I had somewhere to begin. It wasn’t the same story as walking. That was a brand new habit I was beginning, and it was hard.
April ends today, and I’m seeing progress.
I took my 50th walk yesterday. I find myself naturally wanting to walk at certain times of the day. On weekdays, I try to walk around four in the afternoon. On the weekend, I try to walk after lunch. I obviously don’t walk every day, but it is easier to take a day off when I’m not feeling it if I’m at least trying to go every day.
The book Atomic Habits talks about the idea of a habit loop: cue, craving, response, reward. My son getting home from high school at 4:15 has been a great cue for starting my walk. This cue has lead to craving — wanting to take my walk.
My reward is checking off a box. I learned in The Four Tendencies that this is a reward for me because I am an Upholder. I love checking boxes and seeing I am not letting myself down.
My husband is of a different tendency. He is an Obliger. He’s actually been going on a lot of walks with me, and he feels like spending that time with me and supporting my goal is his reward.
I hope my habit check-in will encourage you to set some measurable goals and track them. You don’t have to have an expensive planner. Grab an index card, write May at the top of it, and start tallying that habit you want to change. If marking a box or a card will feel like a reward to you, do that. If not, come up with a reward that helps your habit along.
I’ve been using my expensive planner that I won in an Instagram giveaway to track my walking and reading goal, but I’ve been using an inexpensive notepad on my fridge to keep track of some goals I’ve made around snacking.
You might need a buddy to keep you on track, there is no shame in that. The Four Tendencies says that over 40% of people are Obligers who would benefit from accountability. Ask a friend if you can text a picture of your index card every week.
Having a camera on our phones is a great motivation tool. Taking pictures has kept me excited about my walks.
Accept you’re exceptional. You are unique in how you think. It may take a while to figure out what works. Keep trying, and you’ll begin to see change.