If you’re anything like me, you like to start off a new year by focusing on what you want to change in your life. January seems like a great month for doing that, after the excesses of the holidays. It’s time to get grounded again, look within, think about what you want for yourself in the coming year, and begin to manifest it.
You probably have some bigger goals (travel, education, remodeling) and smaller ones (eat healthier, drink more water, exercise, study, read, meditate, etc.).
For tracking my daily activities, I really like this free downloadable monthly habit tracker from Clementine Creative, which I’ve used for several years. You can print it in different sizes (A4, A5, US Letter, etc.). Then circle the month, add the days of the week (S M T W TH F S) across the top, and list the habits you want to track down the side. Print 12 copies, put them in a binder or on a clipboard, and use the fun office supplies of your choice to track the habits you want to cultivate.
Now you can get an editable version where you fill in the days of the week and the habits you want to track before printing, instead of printing first and writing them in by hand. That version is $3.50 USD.
Also, here’s something I’ve learned from experience. If you are the kind of person (as I am) who does not enjoy strict routines, who starts chafing at the bit after a while and wants to rebel against sameness or rigidity, but you still like to see results from your efforts, you get to decide what’s a win for you. If you make your bed 3 days out of 7, you get to decide if that’s a win. What was that month like? How often did you do it before tracking? Maybe next month, 4 days out of 7.
Your habit tracker should serve you and not make you its slave — unless, say, taking life-saving meds is something you track. It’s about clarity, motivation, and information. Have compassion and allow yourself to be imperfect.
I’ve also found that once a habit becomes ingrained, you can stop tracking it — only add it back to your list if you notice you’ve slacked way off, and you still want to do it.
With enough persistence and learning, anything can become habitual. The four stages of behavior change are:
unconscious incompetence — you are unaware that you don’t know how to do something
conscious incompetence — you are aware that you don’t know how to do something, and you want to do it
conscious competence — you consciously work at doing it, learning, failing, figuring it out
unconscious incompetence — you do it automatically and don’t have to think about it any more
They say that in times of crisis people show their true character. Anyone can be cooperative, patient, and understanding when things are going well and life is good. But it is the noble man or woman who can behave with grace and compassion and even kindness when times are very, very bad. For many people in Northern Japan right now, the times could not be worse. And yet, at least to the outside observer, the manner in which the Japanese people conducted themselves in the aftermath of this calamity has been remarkable.
The best kind of motivation is intrinsic motivation. For the benefit of oneself — and for the benefit of others as well — one must bear down and do their best. Even in good times, behaving uncooperatively or in a rude manner is deeply frowned upon. In a crisis, the idea of complaining or acting selfishly to the detriment of those around you is the absolute worst thing a person can do. There is no sense in complaining about how things are or crying over what might have been. These feelings may be natural to some degree, but they are not productive for yourself or for others.