For a good part of my life, I’ve considered change something cataclysmic, something that needed to be done all at once, no looking back, all or nothing. And for a good part of my life, I have failed at making changes.
After awhile, it becomes quite dispiriting. Let me take my latest bad habit: oversleeping. Now I’ve always been something of an oversleeper. My sister swears that her stomach problems originated with my mother screaming at me to get up while the two of them were at the breakfast table each morning. For periods of my life, I’ve managed to get places on time, but then have reverted right back to being the oversleeper I am. It has become especially bad again this past year. Each day, I say that this is the last of this oversleeping habit, and I set the alarm for a bright and early time. And the next morning, I sleep right through it. Well, to be honest, I have slept through three alarms.
But lately, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of small changes–tweaking things to move me in the right direction. Let’s face it. Making a flamboyant change wasn’t working, so I had little to lose by trying something different.
And I am being moderately successful. Instead of setting my alarm for early mornings, I examined my evenings and made some tweaks in my routine. Instead of waiting around to get ready for bed (I don’t get home until after eight p.m.), I try to move straight upstairs from the front door to take out my contacts, wash my face, and put on my pj’s. That way, I’m not delaying going to bed three hours later because I’m too tired to deal with my contacts. Also, since I like to read in bed before falling asleep, I turn of the television a half hour earlier.
I’ve decided to give tweaking a try in other areas of my life where changes need to be made:
- substituting a glass of water for a soda
- adding a piece of fruit to the day
- starting out meals with a salad
- doing a few push-ups during commercials
What I’m hoping is that each little tweak will lead to more tweaks, and the big changes will be made, perhaps a little more organically.
For students who have just finished this semester and perhaps were not as successful as they wished, this method might work for you as well. Students often react to a disappointing semester with a “I’ll change everything” attitude:
- I’ll get up at four and study every morning.
- I’ll never go out with my friends.
- I’ll rewrite my notes every night.
- And so on.
It’s probably no surprise that midterm often finds students back where they were, with the same bad habits.
So try something different this time. Look at where you can make some small changes and tweak your schedule and your habits. It doesn’t matter if the steps are small; it only matters that they’re going in the right direction.
Interested in tweaking some bad habits? Here are some links that might help: