In our new church, we are a part of a small group. At first glance, it seems like a mismatched group of people. A young couple without kids, a couple with teenagers and one child who just got married, a couple of empty-nesters with five adult kids, and us. We’re at different stages of life and come from different backgrounds, but it has been such a rich time each week and I am learning a lot from each of the couples.
One of the things that stood out to me was when one of the empty-nesters shared that he encourages his kids to always nurture a habit. When he connects with them, he asks, “How’s your habit?”
Immediately, that stuck out to me. As someone who loves being productive, I like the idea of nurturing a habit (or perhaps a few at a time) that will help me reach larger goals. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes goals can seem daunting. Nurturing a habit, while not always easy, is simple and can be effective.
It’s encouraging as I see how it plays out – a goal vs. a habit…
Goal: I want to lose 30 lbs
Habit: I will exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.
The habit means I can feel good about myself because of my behavior, my daily choices, not just the outcome (which isn’t always in my control).
I’ve set out so many weight-loss and fitness goals over the years and I don’t know if I’ve ever reached one of them. I’ve really thought about it and I can’t think of one! But, there are times when I’ve been in great shape, I lost a lot of weight, I felt good about myself, I loved shopping for clothes, etc….but I didn’t reach my goal. Is that failure, then? Absolutely not. I look back on some habits I nurtured, like P90x and whole30 and eating vegetarian, and I am proud of how I stuck to them and what I accomplished, even if I didn’t reduce my frame to a magical number I selected.
Now, I don’t think goals are worthless. I think goals and dreams and plans are great. But, I don’t think they are always an accurate measuring stick for success. Quite honestly, they can become a large stick that’s used to pummel yourself.
So, I am not setting goals or making resolutions this year. I am going to pick habits to nurture. And, the cool thing about habits is they almost become self-sufficient once they are established, because they are, after all, a habit. I say almost, because a good habit can lapse if it’s neglected entirely.
Another cool thing about habits is they will move you towards a goal whether you want them to or not. Good or bad. If you have a habit of biting your nails, you’re moving towards a goal of having really short fingernails and having to check the box indicating you’re a nail-biter at the dentist’s office. If you have a habit of stretching every morning, you’re going to stay (or become more) flexible and limber.
Here are the habits I’m going to start nurturing this year…
Habit – Making my bed everyday. It may be surprising to some of you, but I am kind of lazy about making my bed. I used to do it everyday, but I got out of the habit! A new bed and new bedding in a new bedroom is a good time to make that a habit again and I’ve been doing it everyday for the past couple of weeks.
End Goal – The greater end goal is to keep short accounts with housekeeping. This is a big house and if I can make certain tasks a habit, it’ll make cleaning an overall easier job. I also feel happier and more relaxed in a clean house.
Habit – Exercising for at least 30 minutes, everyday that I can, allowing one day for rest. There have been times in my life when I exercised for 3+ hours every day and times when I haven’t exercised at all. I’m walking sporadically and doing physical therapy for my shoulder and that’s it. It’s time to step it up and make it a healthy habit.
End Goal – Lose weight, develop muscle tone, having fun shopping for and wearing clothes.
Habit – Spending time with my art supplies in the studio at least five days/week. I’m pretty close to doing this, but it’s been a little harder around the holidays. Even on the days when I feel like I don’t have enough time to complete a painting or I’m not feeling particularly creative, I can work on color charts, value sketches, art journaling or even just organizing my supplies and refining my workspace.
End Goal – To grow my technical skills and intuition as an artist.
Habit – Take one pretty picture a day. (Most days.) I was looking back through my Instagram feed and I realize I used to be much more intentional about styling and taking beautiful pictures. I used my tripod, I tethered, I carefully set up lighting, etc. Since we moved, I have been “shooting from the hip” more.
End Goal – I really love photography, so this one is mostly for the enjoyment of it, but also to have pretty pictures to share on my blog, social media, and for my brand. It’s a win-win.
I have a few others habits I’d like to nurture that are personal and more on my “habit list” for the future (practicing guitar, keeping a daily journal, drinking more water, etc.), but I don’t want to be overly ambitious! It’s just like me to say, “I’m not going to set overwhelming goals. Instead I’ll nurture 82 habits!”
I need to make a habit of not putting too much on myself.
I’ll keep you posted on my habits and how they are going. Do you have a habit you’re going to nurture in 2018?