Today’s big idea is that something that can help you keep track with your efforts to start a new habit is to keep some kind of record of every time you do it. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could just be a tick mark in a notepad somewhere. But the truth is that what you track improves, because what you focus on grows.
Listen to the Podcast Here
This is related to a quote that I shared last week from Carl Jung that says,
“Discipline is obedience to awareness.”
Last week, I talked about it in the context of raising your awareness of all the pieces of a habit you’d like to change that are underneath the surface of your consciousness, like an iceberg. This week, I’m using it to describe how raising your awareness of the new habit that you’re building will help you find the discipline and, let’s face it, the obedience, to keep going.
Many years ago when I still had an office job, my cube mates and I decided to do a bring your lunch from home challenge
So we cordoned off a corner of the white board we shared and put everyone’s name at the top of a column. Every day that we brought our lunch, we put a little check mark under our name. NOT high tech, OK? But I’m telling you, seeing those check marks accumulate was very motivating. And, those days when we didn’t bring a lunch, knowing that we didn’t get a check mark that day helped us get back on track the next day.
It was the silliest little thing, but wow did it help us replace the habit of hitting the local deli hot bar with bringing healthier, cheaper stuff from home. This was in New York City, mind you, where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a takeout place, and where you truly never have to prepare your own food if you don’t want to.
If you’ve ever worn a Fitbit or other step counter, you’ve experienced this phenomenon
Sometimes just looking down and seeing that you’ve only taken 2,000 steps that day will inspire you to put on your tennis shoes and get out for a walk.
There are so many apps out there that can log your steps, your miles, your meditation sessions, your food intake. You name it. So perhaps you’d like to enroll the help of technology to help you keep track of your new habit.
You can also make yourself what’s known as a bubble chart–a piece of paper with as many circles as you can easily fit on it, so that every time you do the thing you’re trying to ingrain, you can color in one of the little bubbles.
Or you can write your name at the top of a column on a corner of your white board and give yourself a checkmark every time you do that thing you’re trying to make a habit.
Whatever form you choose, seeing evidence of your efforts will help inspire you to keep going.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to decide how you’re going to keep track of your new habit. Bubble chart? Tick marks? App? Fitbit or other piece of tech?
If you really want to amp up the benefits of this idea, consider keeping your tally in a public place, and maybe even enlisting others to embrace the same habit with you and record their progress, too. Just like that whiteboard in the office. Or, now that we’re working from home, it might be a Google sheet that everyone can add their check marks too.
There are also many cool apps that let you hop on to a group challenge
I’m doing one with friends now where we’re walking the same amount of miles as St. Francis of Assisi when he made his pilgrimage from Florence to Rome, and it lets us see who is ahead and who is lagging behind, which can be very motivating, I tell you!
I have other friends who have used an app called Challenge Hound where you can all decide you’re going to walk the equivalent of the width of Ireland, for example, in service of building a regular walking habit.
Really, the only criteria of tracking method is that it’s something you’ll actually use, so if you choose something that you promptly forget about, try something else. Sometimes the simplest thing truly is the best.
Come back tomorrow!
When I am interviewing a New York City cardiologist who has been helping her patients create and keep healthier habits for the past 20 years. I look forward to hearing her insights on what really helps folks make lasting change.