Have you ever set out on a personal journey that seems to show no results? Nothing is more frustrating than working hard at something and not seeing the fruit. I’ve been there. If you’re new to habit-building or a “pissed off Patty” this article was written for you.
Start with a vision
Imagine being sent to the grocery store, but not being told what item to grab. You’d wander aimlessly down the aisles and either choose the wrong item or leave empty-handed. Now, what if someone told you to go to the store and grab a carton of eggs. This time you’d enter and make a direct path to the eggs (unless you got distracted by the cookie aisle first). This example seems silly, but I’ve seen too many people set out on a habit journey with no clear vision of who they want to become. Just like the eggs, if you could visualize yourself with a happy mindset, a thriving business, a toned body, a thriving relationship, you’d be more likely to follow the direct habit path to get there. The best way I keep my vision top of mind is by making a vision board. It’s a constant reminder to “grab the eggs…grab the eggs…grab the eggs” and when I look at it every day it keeps me from going down the cookie aisle. Create a direct path to your goals so you can get what you want faster.
To keep yourself from becoming a “pissed off Patty,” you need specific proof that you are making progress. That’s where a habit tracking guide comes in. I consider myself a bit of a “pen and paper” gal. I enjoy writing things down and having them in front of me, but whether you like to or not, having a visual reminder will motivate you and show you a record of success.
Put simply, things light up in your brain when you check a box or complete a task, and that feeling will make you want to act again. Have you ever made a to-do list and then added something to it just to check it off? I’m guilty, but that satisfied feeling is what we want to replicate with habit tracking.
Another example: In grade school, my teacher would track our behavior with a display of colored cards. At the beginning of the day, everyone’s card started green, but if someone misbehaved, she would change the card to yellow. Seeing your name with green was satisfying, but yellow or red was humiliating. As a result, you acted well to keep your green status. The same effect happens when I see a blank space in my habit chart. The visual reminder creates a desire to keep good behavior alive and practice good habits.
A common trend when people start out to change their habits is they try adding too many new tasks at once. It is very difficult to add gratitude, 30 minutes of exercise, clean eating, 15 minutes of reading, an intentional phone call, and so on when you aren’t used to it. I suggest focusing on one habit at a time and getting really good at it before incorporating the next. I started by writing down one thing I was grateful for each morning, and it was the perfect foundation to stack many more habits later on.
Close the flood gates
No one is perfect, and there may come a time when you slip off the habit train. If this happens, close the flood gates. In the past, if I ate an unhealthy meal like pizza, it was like I opened the flood gates. I would think, “I already ate pizza, so why not have some ice cream and some chips too?” Sometimes it even flowed into the next day or week. If it happens think, “it’s easier to clean up a puddle than a pond.” Do your best to quickly clean up and jump right back on the train.
Give yourself grace
Relating to the paragraph above, give yourself some grace! Too often people quit if they can’t be perfect. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while! Have a slice of pizza, and don’t beat yourself up over it. In the end, the overall goal is to have more good days than bad days. You’ll be able to see this when you have your habit guide.
Find a habit tracker
I hope this article proved the importance of visualization, tracking, and having a good mindset with habit building. There are plenty of free printable habit trackers online, or if you want to invest in a product, check out The One Life Planner. Happy habit building!