Deciding it’s time to make a change and deciding you are going to make that change, are both sometimes a lot easier than actually following through on that new behavior – especially when life gets hectic or throws you a curve ball (which is guaranteed to happen).
Anything new isn’t automatic – and it doesn’t flow with the fabric of your life nearly as easily as the old way of doing things – you know – the one that you are trying to change. That old way is probably far more ingrained and may be almost intuitive. When you are busy, tired, or functioning on autopilot, which do you think is the direction you are most likely to go? Exactly.
Rituals and routines are your secret weapon. When you leverage a ritual, you can harness the power of mindless activity and autopilot instead of fighting against it.
Big or small, easy or difficult, if you want to make a change, ask yourself how you can turn it into a ritual.
Why might you want to do this?
Sue decided that it would be a huge help to her schedule and to eating better if she had her groceries delivered. She tried the service once and it worked like a charm. Her kitchen was stocked with healthy produce, and she had one less chore on her to-do list. Easy peasy – and she loved it. Except – the groceries had to be ordered in time for weekend delivery. During the workweek, Sue is busy with other things. As much as she loved her groceries showing up at her door, she completely forgot to order them for the next few weeks – until Saturday – when she had to go to the grocery store herself.
Jan found that daily journal writing helped her stress and her overeating immensely. Taking time to write a few paragraphs about her feelings and thoughts grounds her, helps her pay attention to what she needs, and be clear about her priorities for the day. But when life gets busy (when she needs these things the most), she can forget to sit down with her journal for days or weeks at a time. The missed journaling is always felt – things don’t go as smoothly, she feels more stressed, and she is much more vulnerable to emotional eating and overeating.
Paving the way for your changes to happen automatically (creating rituals), makes them flow a whole lot easier.
How to make something new into a ritual:
Instead of putting your new “thing” on your to-do list, give it a home. Make one decision about how often, where, and when you will do this thing. Strive to make it as automatic as possible.
Sue decided that she would order her groceries on Thursdays before she left the office. She set up a system with an online list that family members could add to during the week. She put a reminder in her phone so she wouldn’t have to remember this new task in order to make it happen.
If possible, link the new thing to something that already happens “automatically.”
Jan decided that mornings, with her coffee (which she never misses), were the best time for her to journal. She decided to get up fifteen minutes early so she’d have the house to herself. She uses a timer on her coffee maker, keeps her journal where she sees it first thing and has set a policy not to check email or do anything else that might pull her off course before she has her me-time.
Make your new change as easy as you possibly can – especially in the beginning.
Do not rely on the fact that you are good at hard things. The question to ask, is, “How can you make this new thing happen as easily as humanly possible?” Make sure everything you need (all supplies, clothing, etc.) is ready and instantly at hand. Choose the timing that works the best. Don’t hesitate to choose a smaller step, time period, or frequency if that’s what it’s going to take to make it happen. Choose an action that can actually happen and use action to build momentum.
Set up a system to remind you of your new ritual.
Don’t put the pressure on your busy brain to remember. You’re smart, but you already have enough details swirling around in your head. For the first few weeks (at least), set an alert on your phone, create visual reminders (notes, etc.), and put them where you will see them.
Ready to create a new habit? Here’s a checklist for turning any change into a ritual.
- What do you want to integrate into your life?
- How often do you want to do it?
- When and where is it going to happen?
- Can you link this change to a routine you already have?
- How can you make it even easier?
- What will remind you?
Take good care,