The internet is awash in suggestions, tips, and tricks for getting the life you want. And many of them are ideas that would truly make a difference.
The problem is choosing the right habit to start with. You have only limited time and energy, so which one should you cultivate first?
For example, in my 20s, I hit an unhappy patch and knew I needed to make a change. But Googling "fix my unhappiness" yielded more suggestions than I could possibly take in a lifetime! I dove a little deeper into myself and discovered that at the core of my unhappiness was anxiety. I would feel anxious about everything from not getting the results I wanted from my experiments and looking stupid in group presentations to being single, the overwhelming list of tasks I had to complete, and my finances...
...and on and on. On any given day, I could find at least 10 things to be anxious about. Can you relate? If anxiety isn't your "poison," then what is?
At first it seemed like it would take a lot of work to get from anxious me to happy me, but after a few dead ends, I found one key habit that made a world of difference for me. It wasn't rocket science: I just journaled my anxious thoughts for 10 minutes each evening.
That's it. No lobotomy, no months-long retreat to an ashram in India. Those 10 minutes, over the course of a year, helped me to see the wacky patterns that I would engage in again and again—the irrational fear of everything going wrong, the belief that I wasn't "good enough" despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. In putting thoughts to paper, where I could objectively look at them, I was able to gradually break free of my old thought patterns and choose new ones.
My life these days is quite different. I am much more calm and accepting of any uncertainty and disappointment in my life:
Did my results not turn out as hoped? That's OK; it happens sometimes.
Do I have a long to-do list? I will get the most important things done today. The rest can wait.
Do I have an important meeting coming up? I know my stuff and am sure I will do great.
No matter what curveballs life throws me, I am prepared to handle them with grace and confidence.
That was my habit, but it won't necessarily be yours. In my work with clients, one of the first things I help them do is find one unique habit that will make the largest difference. For some, it's setting a bedtime or making sure to eat lunch at a regular time. For others, it's doing one thing each week that scares them. There is an art to finding the right habit, and once you have found it, you can feel your life start to shift.
Here are clues about where to look to find your habit:
What habits do you find yourself admiring in other people and wishing that you had?
What is the one biggest pain point in your life right now? What is one thing you could do to make it better?
What habits do you find yourself actively avoiding? As counterintuitive as this might seem, if you are feeling strong resistance, then it might be worth investigating why.
Ask a friend what they would recommend.