In this article, we’ve covered the basics of changing your life, creating habits, and dealing with struggles. This week we’ll take some time to solidify our habits while considering ideas for creating new habits. Continue your habit as usual with the practices we’ve discussed, as we talk about these new ideas.
Gradually Changing Your Life: 6 Days Challenge
Changing Your Life Day 1: Consider a second habit
If your new habit is becoming ingrained, you might be eager to start a new habit. This is a great impulse. It’s usually a mistake to try to do two habits at once, but once the first habit has become part of your new “normal,” you can think about a second habit. I recommend considering another positive habit that is meaningful to your deeper purposes.
Changing Your Life Day 2: Gradually change your life
If you started your first habit small and progressed gradually, you’ve learned the Slow Change method. Instead of revamping your entire diet all at once, imagine adding one vegetable each week, then fruit, then nuts, and slowly, gradually, your entire diet changes. It’s gradual, so you barely notice the difference, and your Childish Mind hardly objects.
Today, consider whether you did the Slow Change method with your first habit, and consider what tiny changes you can make over the next few months that will be easy to make but meaningful in the long term.
Changing Your Life Day 3: Let go of unhelpful changes
The gradual change of your life sometimes means letting go of habit changes that haven’t worked out well. I had a friend who diligently stuck to a yoga habit almost every morning for more than two months, but just wasn’t enjoying the habit.
It wasn’t adding joy to his life, so he eventually dropped it. It can be disappointing to let go of a habit you had such high hopes for and worked so long for, but we have to remember that we do these habit changes to learn about ourselves. One thing we might learn is that this habit isn’t as helpful as we’d imagined.
No matter what the outcome, we’ve learned a lot through the process. Today, consider whether your new habit has been as helpful as you’d pictured … and whether it’s worth carrying it forward. If not, permit yourself to drop it, and perhaps revisit the habit later.
Changing Your Life Day 4: Adjust & refocus
If you decide to keep your habit going, now consider how it has gone, what you’ve learned, and what obstacles you’ve encountered. What adjustments do you need to make? What have you learned that can be applied to future habits? It’s a good idea to write a short journal entry to solidify these learnings. Finally, refocus yourself on the deeper Why of the habit, the intention, and the gratitude you’ve practiced with, as you go forward.
Changing Your Life Day 5: Go into habit maintenance mode
As you prepare to take on a second habit, you’ll want to continue with the first habit by putting it in “habit maintenance mode.” This is a way of continuing it with less of a focus. By now, the habit should start to become more automatic if you’ve been at least a little consistent. You don’t need reminders to start, and it’s feeling a bit easier, more a part of your “normal.”
So as you start putting your focus on your second habit, all you want to do is not forget about the first habit. You don’t need to keep track of it every day, as long as things are going well. Every few days, pause and reflect on your first habit and check in to see that everything is still going well.
Maybe once a week, use one of these reflection sessions to assess whether you have any obstacles around the first habit, need to make adjustments, learned anything new. After a while, you need to reflect on the habit less often, as it becomes ingrained in your life.
Changing Your Life Day 6: Embrace the uncertain path of change
The truth is, the path to changing your habits and the gradual changing of your life won’t be straight, ordered, neat. It will be messy, littered with failed habits, with constant stops and restarts. There isn’t an optimal path or certainty that you’re doing it right. I’ve never experienced that and don’t know anyone who set out with a habit plan for 12 months and accomplished it exactly. It’s much messier.
So if you’re hoping for a plan with certainty and precision, you’ll need to toss out that Mind Movie, and instead, embrace the uncertainty of not knowing what the hell you’re doing. See if you can stay in this place of uncertainty, continue to walk down the path of habit change without anyone telling you it’s the right way, and be OK with it.
You’ve practiced with uncertainty, discomfort, and groundlessness for at least a few weeks now, and your path is to continue that practice. Embrace the uncertain path with curiosity.
Also Read: What Is Zen?
To Change for The Better
Gauge your bandwidth: It’s a good idea to take a look at what is going on in your life — do you have a big work project, a lot of work stress, travel, illness, family crises, busyness with your family or friends? Are you overwhelmed, stressed out?
Any one or more of these factors can cause you to have low bandwidth for creating new habits and messing up on habits, in this case, does not reflect on your discipline levels. Consider either taking a break from the habit or reducing what else you’re doing in your life to change for the better.
Change Your Thought Change Your Life?
To change your life, try for the minute or so that you do your habit today, practice shining the spotlight of mindfulness onto the habit. Turn the spotlight onto your breath, then your body, your surroundings, all the other sensations associated with the movements of doing your habit. Appreciate everything wonderful about life so that life itself becomes your reward.
I Need a Change in My Life?
For example, here are a few ideas for good habits to work on to change your life for good:
- Walk for 5 minutes
- Do ten pushups
- Drink tea in the morning
- Meditate for a few minutes
- Write a couple of paragraphs a day
- Sketch something simple
- Eat a vegetable with lunch
- Find five pieces of clutter to recycle/donate
- Drink a glass of water in the morning
- Put clothes in the hamper after you shower
How to Completely Change Your Life?
When you set to do something — let’s say write a book, or have a conversation with someone — you can set an intention before you do that activity, as a way of consciously deciding what you’re hoping to do during the activity. For example, you might have the intention of compassionately helping people as you write your book.
This doesn’t mean you think things will turn out this way (you might not help anyone), but it means you’re bringing the intention of helping into the activity. This intention informs your approach, and how you feel and act during the activity. Setting intentions will help you in changing your life gradually.
How Can I Change My Life and Be Happy?
I struggled for many years with health problems, procrastination, being stuck in jobs I didn’t like, never pursuing my dreams, being overweight, not being able to stop eating junk food. I struggled with the Childish Mind and the Mind Movie and didn’t realize why I was struggling. What was wrong with me?
I tried many times to change all my habits, sometimes succeeding for a week or two, but always ending in failure and guilt. I’d end up just feeling worse about myself.
I finally overcame this cycle of failure and guilt by completely focusing on one habit change, and not letting my Childish Mind run away from the discomfort. It was a massive struggle, but I learned that I didn’t need to listen to this Childish Mind, that it would raise hell but ultimately all the complaining was just noise.
I proved to myself that I could overcome the resistance, and I learned to turn from the Mind Movie to embrace the reality in front of me. The moment in front of me was awesome.
I also learned to change habits in tiny steps, gradually, so that the Childish Mind wouldn’t rebel so violently. One at a time, I changed my eating habits slowly over long periods. One change at a time, I was able to start running, start writing in the morning, start a business, start getting rid of clutter.
So, you can also try these habits in tiny steps.