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Ascend Life Blog #3: Enemies of Successful Habits


In the last post I mentioned that about a month ago I started three Self-Imposed, Daily, Challenging, Healthy-Activities (SIDCHAs). These were; ending my shower with cold water, doing 10 burpees a day, and writing down past memories. I also mentioned that the only one that has really worked for me was ending my shower with cold water. Today let’s look into why I was successful with this one and why I failed with the other two.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” - Henry Ford

As I tell the story of these three activities keep an eye out for the two traits I call the Enemies of Successful Habits. They are, detachment and complexity. Not combining the activity with something you are already doing requires that you remember to do the activity. Making the activity too complex means you will be more likely to skip it if time or energy are in short supply. The counterparts to these traits are integration and simplicity. Combining the activity with something you’re already doing and making sure to start with something manageable.

Let’s take a look at the first activity I tried. When I take a shower I begin with the water at a very pleasant hot. After washing hair and body I bump the knob towards cold just a little as I rinse off. That is the hardest part, but I decided the requirement is that I must rinse off in cool water. From here it is pretty easy for me to keep bumping the water colder. It usually takes 3 or 4 steps for me to reach my goal of water cold enough to take my breath away. I am only in the cold water for a minute and a half, but that is plenty of time to get the effect I am looking for.

Why have I had good success with cold showers? The activity is directly tied to my daily showering routine. I have self-imposed a small requirement to always rinse off in “cool” water. This step is not difficult at all and energises me to finish by turning the water colder still. In this way I have defeated the Enemies of Successful Habits! Yeehaw!

Now for my failures. Writing down memories each day has definitely been the bigger of my two failures. I started with a list of 6 questions to prompt me to remember and record memories from different times in my life. They were; yesterday, last year, my college days, living in Estes Park, living in St. Louis, and growing up in Texas. Sounds a bit daunting right? It was!

This exercise was taking me more than 15 minutes a day. I had already succumbed to the second enemy by starting off too big. In addition, there were no other activities that I had tied this one to. I would end up remembering to do it at the end of the day when I was ready to head to bed. I ended up missing a couple days in a row, so I tried to save it by shortening the list down to just a memory from last year. That lasted one day and I haven’t done it since.

What about the burpees? I have been more successful with this one, and I probably do it more than half of the time. That still isn’t as often as I would like. The issue isn’t that burpees are super difficult. 10 burpees really isn’t a problem for me. (I should probably increase that to 20 and do it more times in a day.) My failure has come in the form of not having a set time to do it or a routine to tie it to. I either forget to do it completely or remember at an inopportune moment. Like when my son Isaiah is sleeping. Jumping up and down in the living room isn’t great for keeping a toddler asleep.

I personally want to revisit these two activities. I think that if I figure out a way to apply these principles of integration and simplicity, I will be able to have much better success. This will be the challenge for myself this week. I will report back on what changes I decide to make and how they have helped in the next post.

What about you? Can you think of a small activity that you would like to start doing? Maybe you already did after reading the last post. I want to encourage you to start it if you haven’t already and make sure that the Enemies are not starting your activity with you. Maybe you already do activities like this. Is there something else you could start? Take a few minutes to think about how and when to incorporate this activity into your routine. Modify the activity so that it works for you. Remember to make sure it isn’t too difficult. You may need to try different things until you find the right fit. Don’t give up if you find yourself struggling. Figure out what about it makes it a struggle and find ways to change that.

I have created a worksheet to help you put some of these ideas down on paper. Download this tool to help you be more intentional in starting healthy habits.

Thanks for reading!

God Bless,