Little things add up – Help kids form good habits
Want to get ahead – do the basics. Don’t focus on the big, grand goals, but rather the tiny steps that, when done consistently, make progress and success much more likely. Surprisingly few people focus on the small steps. They look for shortcuts and work arounds. Or they figure major bursts of effort will make up for lack of effort early on. But it is actually the daily habits we form that are often the difference between failure (or adequacy) and success.
Intuitively, we know this. But developing the habits is the hard part, especially for kids who don’t have the maturity to see the big picture. So, as parents, help them focus on the here and now. Honor the small steps, the little movements they make. By simply and consistently doing the basics, steady progress will actually lead to overall change, growth, and success.
But before we can get kids to believe in this, they may need to experience the Power of Habits. So, perhaps you can lead the way for your kids. Set the example of developing just one new daily habit and invite them to start one as well. Start with a fun, low-stress activity – something that you each want to spend time on but currently don’t (ex., a hobby, leisure reading, a physical skill). Commit to doing the activity a little bit, on a regular basis. Then, once you experience the positive impact, you can each can add daily routines that will make a difference. They may not be as interesting but can make a real difference in your daily success (ex. reviewing notes for 10 minutes, spending 5 minutes a day cleaning your room, drinking 64 ounces of water each day). And then, before you know it, change will occur and progress will be made! You will feel great when these efforts become routine. Try the acronym DIVE to help you, and your kids, develop good daily habits that will really move you forward.
Statistically speaking, not everyone does the basic things that can easily improve chances for success – in school, at work, for health. So, if you are someone who does develop good habits where others around you do not, you stand a greater chance of success, relative to them. By increasing the percentage of time that you do the required actions needed for success you are, by definition, increasing your chances for success. So, if there is an area of life where you want to improve your opportunity for success – start by seeing what data points, what actions are required, for success. For example, to feel physically fit, you need to raise your heart rate each day and use your muscles with intention. To succeed in class, you need to review your notes and do your homework each day. It is said that you need to do something 30-40 times or two to three months for it to become a new habit.
Think about the benefit of having done the action. What is the value to you? Why is it worth the effort? How will you feel if you actually have this as a habit in your life (even if right now it seems like a big effort or learning curve)?
How can you increase your chances of doing your new action regularly so that it will become a habit? Have a visual reminder that you must see at the appropriate time. A picture, even a simple post-it with one letter can be enough to remind you, if it is strategically placed. In coaching, we call this an Anchor. So, start by brainstorming a simple, visual way to remind you of your intention.
Trust that when you made your plan, you were thinking clearly and positively. Don’t let yourself back off. Whatever you need to say to yourself to keep going – say it. It’s the story you tell yourself. Which monster do you want to feed – the weak, lazy, scared, unconfident one that convinces you to stop, OR the strong, intelligent, rational one who knows that evidence is on its side. All those catch phrases really are true. “Just do it.” “Yes, I can.” “Do it anyway.” Maybe it will be really hard the first, second and third time. But Lean In to the discomfort. Even if you don’t feel the benefit in the moment, if you know that the data says it will work – trust the facts, your data – not your feeling.
You never know what lies beneath other people’s actions. They may be a big bundle of nerves and just pretending to feel confident and strong. Actors do it all the time. The reality is – it works. The language we tell ourselves is so important.
Which one will you choose:
I plan to…. or I will….
I want to…. or I am going to…
I should…. or I must…
So, don’t wait for someday to feel like you are ready. Get off the couch now and choose one new habit to start. Experience the power of consistency, routine and grit.