Forming new habits or how I put a lime in some water and became a better person.

Twenty years ago when I was enjoying my University years, if I was known for anything at all, disorganisation and lateness would have been the things for which I was known. Despite being short of money I once lost a large cheque sent to me by my grandma that I had just, sort of, put down somewhere. Looking in my room would have been futile as I hadn’t even seen the floor since I moved in. Similarly if you wanted me to arrive anywhere on time you had to…well..forget it.

I still feel that I am the same person, and often berate myself for being lazy, disorganised, late again: I’m playing the same criticisms through my head that I have always heard….. But. Here’s the thing. When we do this to ourselves do we ever stop to look how far we’ve come?

When I still feel like that person I’m not looking at the real picture. Over the past twenty years I have experienced huge changes in my life which have shaped me in ways I can hardly see or realise. I’m married, I run a small business from home and I have three children to look after. They get to school each day on time with the (mostly) the right equipment and if we are there just by the skin of our teeth its usually because someone lost a shoe or was sick or the car was iced up or any other family problem. Maybe it’s not always my laziness these days that make us behind time, and actually some of the systems I have in place must be working. Look how far you’ve come baby. Now your excuses for being late are legitimate….

There are so many blogs and pinterest posts on how to do super organised. I avidly pin these lurid promises of 30 Days To A Perfect Home, definitely a follower not a leader in that field. In fact, I’m not sure how easy it is in practice to ever exercise that much control over the house and your family. My kids like some direction and order but forcing everyone to rigidly stick to routines and tidy up after themselves constantly isn’t any fun. A home is meant to be a place where we relax and feel “at home” so why are we constantly being encouraged to make our places look like show homes? I have no beef with a few toys here  and there. Still there is that stressy dissatisfaction that creeps in, and I’m sure I am not alone in feeling that there must be a third way between controlling life with a rod of iron (I can’t live like that) and being the carefree tardy slob I was at 20 (we can’t live like that. No, really kids, it’s not going to work).

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts I am trying to forge a way through the perceived chaos, but gently, with the help of book called 52 Small Changes. I believe that positive change can be brought about in my life but like everyone else my New Year resolutions are notoriously short lived. If you want the changes to be permanent, you have to make them habit. But how can a habit be formed intentionally?

You will be aware of Sticker Charts as a popular parenting tip method for dealing with little children. This falls into a category of method known as Behaviourism. Using sticker charts to encourage desirable behaviour in children has been criticised because it doesn’t always bring about a permanent change in the child, they are working to an external reward not learning to be good for their own sake. However, the approach can help them begin to work towards a concrete goal (a specific behaviour like peeing in a potty) if they weren’t that keen on doing it for its own sake. Sounds cute but the same approach works with adults if the goal is short-term. Everyone loves a little extrinsic reward on reaching a goal, maybe not a sticker, but something. Ever promised yourself a little treat after you finished your tax return? If there is a will to succeed then a chart (even for you grown ups) might just help form the beginning of a habit. Once it is ingrained it can be done without the chart or reminder.

My current goal – this is week 1 after all – is to drink more water. It is the very first thing in a long list of things I need to do to achieve perfection. I have a secondary long term goal of decluttering the house but I think I  will tell you about that another time. I am finding drinking nearly 2 litres a day so hard. Turns out I have never got near to drinking that much before except maybe once in a student bar in 1998 – and this is plain water. Easy to forget and easier to gradually lose motivation. I am searching for handy ways to remember what I’ve drunk and how much more I need to go. I started (of course) a Pinterest board and thought about printing out one of the many handy charts.

The funny thing is I am actually finding the simplest method of extrinsic reward works best for me as I can’t even remember to fill in a chart! So I made some extra delicious water, there are loads of different fruit infused waters to try on Pinterest. My favourite so far is lime and basil which isn’t too sweet and has a healthy herbal taste. This has worked best as it turns out I needed a carrot to get healthy, rather than a stick. Human motivation is a complex thing to understand.

Glug, glug.

What are your goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

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