3 New Habits Currently Making Me Better

photo: Erica Nichole

photo: Erica Nichole

For some reason, society likes to boast this idea that we can quit bad habits cold turkey if only we really want to. We witness a lot of messaging and marketing that tell us that our best self is right on the other side of one major epiphany. But the truth is that lasting change comes as a result of lots of small adjustments coupled with major shifts in our own thinking. The habits that define our lives are often born from years and years of conditioning; we internalize lessons about how to be from lots of different teachers and experiences. But then we glorify the “before and after” narrative of success, in everything from weight loss to fighting addiction to building a powerful career.

One of the best things about growing up, to me, is gradually gaining insights into who I truly want to be, beyond the influence of anyone else’s expectations. With those insights comes the responsibility to actively do some shape-shifting - like, really walk the talk. We’re almost three months into 2018, and my choice to pick up and drop a handful of habits is already proving to make a difference to my professional growth. Here are a few of my small steps toward excellence.

1) Spending Less Time on Facebook

Last year, I often found myself frustrated that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Working full time and freelancing is time-consuming, but not impossible. What really got to me was that I felt like I didn’t have time to nurture my other goals and ideas on top of balancing regular maintenance activities like exercising, cooking, being social, etc. More and more, I heard myself saying the phrase “I don’t have time.”

This year, I decided that wasn’t an acceptable answer and that, if an endeavor was important to me, it was my duty to myself to make time. So, I started taking stock of all of my time-sucks. On the top of that list was Facebook, sucking away both my moments and my positive energy. As I dedicated myself to only participating in activities that brought me pleasure, education, or peace, I realized that Facebook didn’t have much of a place in my life. It was a habit that offered me no value besides chatting with my best friend across the country every day, which I solved by just downloading the messenger app alone. It's a simple thing, and I know I'm way behind the curve compared to some of my friends who dropped recreational Facebook ages ago. But what it taught me more than anything was how important it is to assess my routines and how much value, if any, they each add to my life.

2) Diversifying My Media Consumption

I listen to podcasts during my commute or morning routine practically every day. One of my favorite podcasts rarely talks about anything substantial, but it’s good for some trash and some laughs. I’ve never been one to judge people for consuming a lot of shallow entertainment. It’s none of my business, for one. But I also just know that many of us are multifaceted folk, perfectly capable of thinking critically and giving in to the spectacle sometimes.

As much as I love kicking off the day with a laugh, I decided to supplement my media diet with a more educational podcast 4 days a week. Listening to people who have achieved a level of success comparable to my goals gives me a new kind of morning motivation. Sometimes, I learn new insights that sharpen my approach and sometimes I simply hear validation that I’m on the right path. Either way, it activates a more engaged and intellectual part of my brain, which is a great strategy for maintaining my personal momentum.

3) Finishing the Tasks I Hate

Historically, procrastination has been my worst habit. But I’m not about that life anymore. Following my most routine tasks through to completion primes me to get in the habit of following through on my newer habits. For instance, I don’t hate washing clothes so much as I hate folding them and putting them away afterwards. I don’t know why I dread that part so much, but I do. Lately, though, I’ve pushed myself to complete the whole laundry process from start to finish instead of leaving clean clothes in a hamper in the hallway for a week. Now, as I try to condition myself into new habits like packing my lunch every morning, I feel much less resistance to just doing it. Simply investing the extra few minutes it takes to complete a mundane task trains me to do necessary work. Internally, it benefits my peace of mind. Externally, it enhances my personal brand as a reliable, action-oriented person.

A great success story can always get a hand clap from me. But lately I’m more interested in progress stories. Tell me about the small, consistent acts that are making you better. How do you prime yourself for growth?