I have never been a creature of habit. I’m more of a spontaneous reactor to a situation. For example, and this is hard for me to admit, I have always tended to just clean my house really well when people were coming round. On a day to day basis I have always found other things that thrilled me more…. like reading, or researching, or…..well, anything really.
And yet it always felt good to have a clean house, or an ordered bank account. The trouble was that I hated the in between bit of giving up hours to achieve that feeling.
Just the Way I Am
I just believed that this was the way I was. With areas that I was interested in I was driven, worked hard, wasn’t bothered by spending hours achieving what I wanted. Setting up my Cognitive Hypnotherapy business filled my life with joy; spending time preparing for and helping clients was and is, a pleasure; reading for hours felt like an absolute treat. But cleaning? Or doing my day to day finances? Hideous torture.
I knew that I needed to create a habit that would make doing the things I hated, easy. As part of my Master Practitioner course we had looked at the idea of Slight Edge – doing something every day, something small, something easy. If I’m honest it didn’t work for me at the time. The reason for this was because I was trying to apply it to something that didn’t need habit – my business.
Beginning a Habit From Scratch
As time went on though, something seemed to enter slowly, secretly into my life, my way of thinking. I read an article by the brilliant James Clear about the power of habit and, slowly but surely, I started to apply this idea into the places it was really needed. He wrote that habit needed to be easy to achieve and needed to be consistent.
Now, don’t laugh, but my first attempt at creating a habit was to clean a section of my bathroom each day. My bathroom is tiny so each section is about 6ft high and 3 ft long perhaps. It takes 5 minutes maximum. I am allowed to miss a day, but no more than a day and, to be honest, I like keeping the streak going. It makes me feel good. My bathroom has 6 sections and it is now cleaner than it has ever been. I have even incorporated cleaning a section of the floor into the routine now so I never have to clean the whole floor (I job I used to loathe) and it is now pretty sparkly.
5 Minutes a Day
The hardened cleaners amongst you may well sneer at my new habit, but wait… I now have a sparkling bathroom on 5 minutes work a day. And my mind has perked up and noticed how good it looks. Before long the thought came into my head that…maybe I could do a tiny section of my lounge? Maybe I could spend 5 minutes having a look at my finances? Perhaps I could become a person of consistency in all areas of my life and not just the ones that really interested me?
The trick is to only do a tiny bit and, initially that tiny bit doesn’t appear to have an effect. But if I keep that streak going day after day, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, it adds up to something that makes a real difference in my life. I can feel my mind changing. I can feel myself becoming organised and feeling good about myself. Our minds like patterns and when a good pattern of habit is created our minds start to wonder where else we could apply the same technique.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
We are all different and some people might be reading this and wondering how did anyone get to the age of 53 without having created the habit of cleaning. But this was just my Achilles Heel, just my area of most resistance. Other people’s pet hates might be other areas like….giving yourself time to relax; emailing clients; setting up a website; doing homework….a myriad of varying tasks that to some people are a pleasure and yet to others seem like torture. By making a habit that is so easy to complete that it’s nearly impossible not to do we are scaffolding for success. It’s absolutely ok to do 5 minutes, or 3 minutes, as long as we do it. Anything more than nothing is something and all those tiny somethings add up, over time, into a real difference in our lives.
When Good Habits Lead to Happiness
Right now I feel proud of myself and not a little smug that I am achieving an outcome I had thought impossible for me.
I remember once having a client who was going through a difficult period of her life and her measure of how good a day she had had was her coffee table. If she could keep the coffee table tidy she had achieved something to be proud of. It was something small, but it had meaning. As time went by, the tidiness of the coffee table spread and so did the feeling within her that there was a future, a light at the end of the tunnel.
We all have our ‘coffee tables’, our ‘bathrooms’. They are different for all of us, but beginning a habit is a simple way to take back control, to feel good about ourselves, to feel proud. Our good habits can revolve around anything we choose – from cleaning to emotional wellbeing, from homework to finances – it doesn’t matter. What matters is beginning and doing something over nothing
If I can help in any way I am available for a chat at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07894564287 or there is more information about the work I do to help people at www.sarahariss.com