If I could, I'd wave a magic wand and give you one thing.
A joyful and fulfilling creative practice filled with regular, sustainable habits.
But, sadly, when I got my coaching certificate, I was not issued with a magic wand. (I was so disappointed!)
What I do have though, is my own experience as an artist and business owner.
To say nothing of the experience of coaching nearly 150 clients.
That’s a lot of opportunities for me to observe what works and what doesn’t when it comes to setting up creative - or any - habits.
Turns out there are some crucial steps you can take before setting up a new habit that will make you SO much more likely to succeed.
I want to share these steps with you right now. That way you'll have the best possible chance of doing this thing that you really want to do.
These are the five most effective ways you can get ready to start a new habit. Think of it like preparing the ground in which to sow your habit-growing seeds!
1. Time will tell
If you truly want to establish a new habit, you need to make time for it. And, I’m sorry to say, that generally means giving something else up.
Are you really going to get up half an hour earlier to do your new habit when you’re already getting up at 6 or 5 (!) a.m.? I don't think so.
It’s nothing personal but humans need sleep.
It’s not normal (or human) to think you have infinite energy or infinite hours in the day. Or that you can do an infinite number of things.
So, if you already have a crowded schedule with lots of commitments, please think about what you can let go of.
2. Don’t believe the habit hype
Talking of time, please don’t believe the hype.
It will almost certainly take you more than 30 days to form a new habit.
Firstly all habits are not created equal. Writing is harder than flossing. Flossing, three mins and you’re good to go. Writing three mins and you barely got started.
(That said, three mins is a great minimum practice to get you going.)
Secondly, all people are not created equal. What’s hard for me, may be easy for you and vice versa.
For you to form a particular habit will take...as long as it takes.
Don’t measure yourself by arbitrary metrics. They’re irrelevant and unhelpful. Except for making you feel like a failure.
Ugh, I hate that particular F word!
3. Not so great expectations
I know that BHAG’s are sexy. And some people do need them to get motivated.
(If that’s you, I’ve got your back. I’ve had some great long-term relationships with BHAG-loving clients. Yeah, you know who you are!)
But for most people, small is better. For most people, the way to build a habit is to set a tiny goal and achieve it. And then set a slightly more ambitious goal and achieve that.
So don’t try to be a hero/ine at the beginning. Be patient with baby steps for a bit.
You‘ll get to run later. I promise.
4. Get back on the horse
I’ve been making art and doing yoga for a lot of years. (Perhaps for more years than you’ve been on the planet.) So you’d laugh if I told you how many times I’ve stopped and started those habits. How many times I’ve hit roadblocks or simply felt I couldn’t be bothered.
“Call yourself a coach?" You might say.
But here’s the thing. If I could add up all the hours I HAVE spent doing these things, it would be a lot. And I mean a LOT!
Sure, it’s ego-boosting to have a lengthy streak to show for your habit. But one day life - or your willpower - will fail you. And you'll break your streak.
(In fact people who tell you they have a massive unbroken streak are probably bending the truth. Or they’re isolated and selfish human beings. “Don’t bother me now to drive you to ER with that fatal wound. I’m meditating and can’t break my 3000 day streak.” Hmmm.)
What counts is not how many times we fall off the horse. It’s how many times we get back on. And then manage to stay in the saddle for a bit longer!
Think of it as strength training. Every time you stop something and start again, you build your resiliency muscle. And it’s easier and less painful to stick with your habit.
When you’ve fallen off and got back on multiple times, you grow a wonderful trust in yourself. You KNOW that nothing will keep you out of that saddle permanently.
And guess what?
That’s what you most need.
5. Don’t feel ashamed
Since falling off the horse is normal, you don’t ever need to feel ashamed about getting derailed in your habit.
What’s more, there is no shame in admitting to it!
In fact, the opposite is true. When you publicly admit that you’ve fallen off the horse, you’re admitting it to yourself. And that’s the first step to getting back on.
(Hence why I told you how many times I’ve started and stopped the habits that are the most important ones in my life! I’m a seasoned jockey and proud of it!)
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the clients who check in with me when things aren’t going to plan - no matter how frequently that occurs - are the ones that ultimately succeed.
Gina was a budding artist, I worked with. She struggled every day for eight months to get past her inner critic and work on her art. But despite what felt like really slow progress, Gina never stopped showing up and telling me what was going on.
And then one day she came out the other side. She started to work regularly and feel pleased with what she was achieving. A few months later Gina graduated - both from her MA and from my coaching.
So, if you have a coach, remember they’re here to help you get over the bumps and bust through the hard parts. They’re not here to judge.
And if you don’t have a coach, the same rule applies. When you admit to trusted others that things have gone a little pear-shaped, you’ll be rewarded with support. And some heart-warming tales about how X went through the exact same thing when they tried to do Y.
And by admitting the problems and continuing to show up, you’ll come out the other side.
As you’re starting to daydream about how fabulous your life is going to be when you’ve got your much-desired new habit under your belt, please spare a little time to think about these five points.
They will make you SO much more likely to succeed at creating the habits that are meaningful to you!
And I'll get to feel like I've waved a magic wand after all ;)
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