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11 Tips for Cultivating Intentional Habits

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by Tamara Lechner: If you’re like the majority of other people, you make resolutions each December that you never actually attain…

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Or perhaps you start off strong on your path to achieving your goal only to drop off after a few weeks. You might even successfully keep your resolution, but still have lots of things in your life you want to tweak or modify later in the year.

Instead of making one day the day to prompt change in your life, choose to start living intentionally, with habits that align with your purpose as a regular part of your life.

Here are 11 tips to help you start your journey.

Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

Gretchen Rubin, a writer who is obsessed with habit formation, points out that everyone is highly susceptible to goal contagion, which means you pick up the habits of those around you. It’s incredibly helpful to be around people who are doing the things you want to do. For example, if you want to commit to a daily yoga practice, hang out with people who practice yoga daily. If you want to run, surround yourself with runners. If you’re aiming to eat healthy food, shop at a store that promotes healthy eating habits where other shoppers eat healthy food. It’s not rocket science, but it is helpful to use the energy of a group to support you.

Be Specific

Instead of setting an unclear goal like “I want to be healthier” or “I want to make more money,” use measurable targets with clear goals like “I want to eat a full rainbow of foods every day” or “I want to increase my income by 20 percent in six months.”

Write It Down

After you have a clear and specific goal in mind, write it down. Keep it in your wallet or on your desk. You might have it multiple places like as a screensaver, in your car, and on your bedside table. The more you read it, say it, and see it, the more it becomes a part of the fiber of your being.

Know What Motivates You

If you are someone who likes achieving goals and rewards, then use a star chart. If you’re someone who needs accountability, get an accountability partner or group. If you know you just need a clear intention and the action will follow, get really clear. Set yourself up for success by using what works best for you.

Stay True to Yourself

If you are a night owl, setting the expectation that you will get up at 5:30 a.m. to meditate might prove to be a real challenge. On the flip side, if you decide to join a meditation group in the evening, it can be much easier to accomplish your goal. This is also true around your eating habits. Know if you need to avoid a food entirely or if you can have occasional treats or cheat days. Everyone is different, so assuming that what works for one person will work for everyone just isn’t true.

Start Small

Use baby steps towards your goal and celebrate the little milestones along the way. All too often, people set really large goals about changing a major lifestyle, and it’s hard to see progress. When you reduce the size of your goal, it’s easier to see that you’re making steps on the path to getting there.

If you want to work out every single day, start with five minutes. Five minutes is easily attainable, and once you can celebrate that you’ve done five minutes every day, it will seem like less of a step to move your commitment up to 10, then 20, then to a full workout. Don’t let doing a little seem less valuable; it’s always better than doing nothing.

Have a Plan

Put your new habit in a calendar. What is scheduled happens. And know that sometimes things won’t work as planned—have a parachute! Learn how to adapt your needs to work around the unexpected. If you only work on your goal when it fits conveniently into your day, you won’t create the flexibility required to make it sustainable.

Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself frequently is better than just doing it once at the very end. As you move toward what you want, little rewards along the way can keep you motivated and actually help your brain stay on task.

Track Your Progress

Make a chart for milestones and tick them off along the way. When you see how far you have come, it’s easier to get that last 20 percent done.

Practice Visualization

Imagine how you will feel when you attain your target. Spend time feeling how you will feel when you’re celebrating your achievement. This technique helps you practice for success.

Turn Negative Into Positive

If you fall off the path you have chosen, don’t berate yourself. Instead, add the powerful little word “YET.” Tell yourself, “I didn’t lose five pounds YET. I didn’t run every day YET.” YET allows room for change and doesn’t limit your behavior to staying static.

Examine your intention in each interaction and decision you face in your day. Having a concise mission statement for how you want to live will help serve as a rudder as you steer forward. Focusing regularly on how you want to live your life is ultimately a lifestyle choice, not an annual tradition.

Source: Chopra

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