I sighed in frustration again as I heard Levi wail and Olivia yell, "That's mine!" As I made my way into the playroom I knew the scene I would discover. Olivia holding the toy Levi had been playing with. The toy she now wanted only because Levi was playing with it. For what seemed like the hundred millionth time, I rubbed Levi's back to calm him down and talked to Olivia about sharing and being kind to her little brother. Even though it's been a year since the adoption, every single day we are working through the transition of not being the baby in the family anymore. We are attempting to grow new habits in her behavior. Some days I see fruit and others it seems like we've never talked at all. But for a four year old we focus on today.
That made me start thinking about how I approach goals in my life. I don't typically think about today, I think about the outcome. When this happens, then I will feel better. What if the outcome isn't possible for years? Does that mean I'm going to be miserable until then?
Maybe this is where excuses stem from. I already feel bad, so I'll just eat this delicious chocolate cake to feel better and I'll start eating healthier tomorrow. The repeating refrain of start tomorrow becomes reality. Tomorrow doesn't come and habits don't change.
Instead of making excuses and starting tomorrow I am going to change my perspective to just for today. I want to set goals like I'm a four year old.
- Just for today I have to drink a glass of water before coffee because I know my body needs rehydration.
- Just for today I will write down what I'm grateful for.
- Just for today I will take the dogs for a long walk.
- Just for today I will send a note to a friend.
That sounds doable instead of unattainable and it builds up an anticipation of accomplishment. Instead of thinking about the end result, which I absolutely have a tendency to do, I'm going to look at today. What can I do differently today?
Maybe for some new habits I have to say just for one hour or just for the next 10 minutes. With Olivia I work with meal times. Let's be kind to Levi just until snack time. She can do it and she's so sweet with him at times. The problem is the habit she built, the automatic reaction to grab and yell. We need to reset her mind and make the automatic reaction one of kindness.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes, "When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”
We have to fight the habits we want to change. It takes effort and energy, but it is worth it in the end. Add this powerful habit changer to intentional goals and this year will be different.
I'm eager to see how a small shift in perspective to just for today could change my habits more easily. Will you join me in this experiment?
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