Have you ever set out to create new habits or reach new goals only to give up a week or so later?
At the beginning of this year, the word I chose to focus on was “partner.” I wanted to spend the year being more intentional on making Christ my partner in all things. I wanted to recognize my need for His light and guidance in all areas of my life, not just the spiritual ones I have always included Him in.
I have always been an individual with an ever-increasing list of things to do to keep myself busy and feeling productive. I tend to finish one project for my family, home or business only to find myself inadvertently adding another two or three more to replace it.
This year was different. It was a hard year with lots of unexpected challenges that did require me to lean into the strength of my Savior. There seemed to be a string of overwhelming circumstances that came one right after the other and one on top of another. I learned a lot about slowing down and listening for the needs of my body, mind and spirit. Accepting that I needed to slow down was a hard change for me. But looking back I am so grateful for how that stillness helped me be more aware of the quiet whisperings and comfort that is often so easily drowned out by the noise and busyness in my life.
After almost six months in this place of stillness and recovery, I was finally feeling more like myself and ready to start again on a path of self-development. It has been different this time, thanks to this period of calm and quiet. This time I began with new awareness that has previously alluded me.
I’d love to share some of my new understanding with you today.
I love setting new goals and working on new habits, but most of the time, I tend to ebb and flow with these things. I have a tendency to set huge goals and go all in and then once I hit my mark, I settle right back into the space I came from. But the last couple of months in addition to more consciously including Christ in my goal setting, I have been trying to apply some of the things I have read and heard about habits.
#1: Include the Lord.
As I do this, it helps me choose goals and habits that will be most beneficial for my incremental growth. He knows what my strengths and weaknesses are. He knows where my stumbling blocks will be and what precautions and safety nets need to be implemented for me to be successful.
#2: Start small.
In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he suggests that the hardest part of creating a new habit is the getting started. So, if you create a goal to do a minimal amount, once you get started you will most likely do more than the minimum you set. For example, if you are wanting to run for 30 minutes a day, set your goal to run for 2 minutes a day. It feels much more doable, and once you lace up your shoes and head out the door after a couple of minutes you won’t want to stop just there.
#3: Floors and ceilings.
I heard this idea on an episode of Brooke Snow’s podcast. She pointed out that when we set a goal, we usually pick something that will really challenge us, a ceiling. Then after a week or so something is bound to get in the way, we get sick, tired, busy, or just plain lazy. We weigh our feelings against the enormity of the task we selected and choose not to follow through with our commitment. The next day it’s a little easier to rationalize not doing it again. Not many days later we completely throw in the towel because we’ve already failed anyway, right? Well, what if we didn’t have such an all-or-none mentality? What if we actually set floors to go with our ceilings? Say my goal is to read my scriptures for 30 minutes a day and most days that is a goal that works with my schedule and energy level, until there comes a day that it doesn’t work. If I created a floor goal of reading 1 verse, then even when I have bad days, I never have to fail and I get to keep my momentum to move forward.
#4: Integrity to me.
As I’ve been more mindful in considering the past, I realized I’ve had very little integrity to myself. I am very good at following through with the commitments I make to others, but it is much easier for me to fail myself. I haven’t diligently scheduled time for my own self-care or development. And if I have, it’s been very easy for me to find excuses not to follow through. As I have made the Lord my partner in my commitments, I feel a greater responsibility to make sure I am having integrity with the commitments I have made with myself.
#5: Imagine the end feeling.
I have noticed that if I can focus on the feeling I will have at the end, once I have completed my habit for the day, or accomplished the goal, I feel more motivated to do it. For instance, I have never been one who enjoys cleaning. I tend to allow the dishes to stack up just to be frustrated and annoyed with myself as I spend over an hour doing what would have only taken me ten minutes or so at a time. But over the last couple of months of consistently pushing myself to follow through, I have been surprised to learn that I love how it feels when the sink is shined and my counters clean and sparkly. I love that I don’t have to fit in a couple of hours to catch up. I love that I don’t have to be embarrassed if someone pops in for a visit. So, when I look at the dishes after dinner and I’m tired and really don’t want to do them, I just close my eyes and remember how it will feel to be done with them. This visualizing helps motivate me to expend the energy necessary to follow through.
#6: Accountability partners.
Having someone, or several someone’s, to check in with at the end of the day is very helpful in developing habits or reaching goals. Prayer is an especially useful tool in checking in. I have felt how much our Savior loves to be included in my personal development and how much He is willing to lend His strength to me when I have run out of my own. I have also been led to other individuals who are trying to work on becoming a little better every day. It’s amazing the motivation that can come from shared energy and encouragement.
#7: Discipline over motivation.
In a book by Jocko Willink called, Way of the Warrior Kid, he explains the difference between motivation and discipline. Motivation comes and goes, but discipline is how we follow through with the things we know need to be done even when we don’t feel like doing them. Remembering this helps me dig deep and follow through for myself.
#8: Consistent consecration.
Over a short period of time, I have learned that I can consecrate all of my actions to the Lord and it makes them easier to do. I can clean my house knowing that a place of order allows the Spirit of the Lord to be more abundant in my life. I can schedule my day to include activities that help me center myself, allowing my mind be clearer and more open to inspiration. I can hold regular accountability meetings for my business between myself and the Lord asking for help in the best steps for moving forward, knowing that the Lord wants to help me find success in using my talents to help others.
As I have learned and applied these principles over the last few months, I have begun to feel something different, almost magical. I have started to feel a pull towards the habits I’m working to develop and not so much a need to push myself towards them.
This time of year, I start to get excited about time spent analyzing the past year and creating intentions for the next clean slate that lies before me. With these new discoveries in my life and the feelings of calmness, clarity, and gratitude they have brought with them, I am especially looking forward to the coming year.
Is there one of these principles you feel drawn to apply to your own personal development journey? Tell us in the comments!