In Parallel: Forming Good Habits

This week I finished reading Rethinking Positive Thinking by Gabriele Oettingen (referral link). I relate to the premise so much. I love to imagine achieving big goals, whether it is related to homeschooling, my website, a health and fitness related challenge. In my mind, I can feel the sense of accomplishment and my sense of joy. 

I imagine good things and I want these goals, but what happens next? I might make some plans, take a few steps toward those goals, then the excitement fizzles out. I get distracted by the next idea. My enthusiasm peters out and my daydream slips away.

As Oettengen points out, I’m far from the only person who gets so much satisfaction out of imagining that I lose motivation to actually succeed. Charlotte Mason points out in her fourth volume:

I do not think it is lawful to set Imagination to build us pleasure-houses in this way. In the first place, as I said before, while we are dreaming we are letting all our chances of doing slip by us.

So what to do? Oettingen would have us continue to dream big, but once we’ve enjoyed our dream, to spend the same amount of effort in anticipating the obstacles to our goals, and then making a plan for when we meet those obstacles. When we hold our dreams together with an understanding of reality, we’re more motivated and more likely to take action toward our goals. 

This week I have two articles for you that help take our goals from lofty ideals to practical steps that help us make changes in our lives.

Replacing Resolutions with Habits: Leah reminds us that habits give us leverage in our resolutions, and that habits take planning.

“According to recent survey data from Forbes, 64% of women feel that they’re pressured to make New Year’s Resolutions. 80% of people (both men and women) feel confident that they can achieve their goals, but 6% of respondents stuck with their resolutions for the long haul. I personally think this disconnect is because we set huge goals without having the tools to get there- good habits.”

Build Spiritual Habits in Just a Few Minutes: Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra and Megan Hill bring a practical idea to habit building that I love: eliminate excuses by discovering exactly how much time you need for your habit.

Curious, I gave [making the bed] a try. I straightened the sheets, spread out the comforter, and stacked the pillows as slowly as possible, ready to confirm there was no way something this time-consuming could fit into my morning routine.

Ninety seconds.

I was floored. My entire mindset shifted. I wasn’t too busy to make the bed. I was just bad at estimating how long it would take to accomplish. I was giving up before I’d even begun.

Are you a dreamer who struggles to do? How do you translate your big ideas into practical action? Do habits ever seem too big to start?

A letter from me to you, every week.

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