Habits can fade in and out easily ~ solid goals offer a place to ground them.
Here are 5 solid gold goals for a framework of habit-building.
As the year number flips one higher, humans naturally reflect on the ups and downs of the prior year, wondering how to do something better, more, or differently in the year that has just begun. In come the resolutions… How can we ground these resolutions to take root and not set up a sense of future let down? Separate your goals from your habits.
Developing habits and sustaining them can be excruciating – so using a language of fresh starts, caring, and welcoming invitation can make a difference in our inner monologue and consequently how we feel about them, and how we speak with our children. Seeing goals as the lifelong ground we walk on, compared to the habits that we cycle through as we walk the path of our goals, offers a perspective of a journey.
Good learners do re-sets life-long – rising up from prior attempts to remember the goal, undeterred by habits that come and go, returning to the path. There is no end point, no fail, just coming back to the goal, and trying a new approach to keep it fresh. Having clear goals is essential to setting the course for habit sustenance and renewal. The leaves of habits may drop off seasonally, but the stem of a goal survives year to year.
Below are five goals that likely apply to all, providing a framework to remind me of the key tenets that I am going for in the midst of the nitty gritty, the busy, and the distractions of the day to day that knock off fragile habits. Though the habits may come and go, those goals are the golden path to tread step by step.
This mindset is embedded in my work with learners. With the students, a practice of building goal-based habits is the healthy soil where learning can grow. It allows a possibility for success to take root and then feeds a cycle of competence.
The five goals create a foundation for well being and striving for best self. I try to practice what I promote, which isn’t to say that I have this down, but rather that I’m working on it constantly ~ tweaking my habits and revisiting the goals regularly, especially at the start of each new year. This allows me to hold awareness of a direct experience that I can pass on and model with my students, in addition to empathizing with their challenges.
5 Foundational Framework Goals
1. Sleep – 8-10 hours…one way or another, no negotiating. Okay, grown-ups might do okay with 7, however aiming for 8 is a good practice. This is a daily struggle and I miss the mark all the time. But I still strive and come up with new tricks to help deliver myself and my children to the essential sleep. Revisit the routine regularly as sleep connects to ever-changing factors such as hormones, schedule, seasons, and stress. Focus on the how it feels on days where we make the sleep happen, and find tricks for the crew to be in bed. Familiarity with chronotypes, as Daniel Pink described in his book, can support tapping into natural rhythms. Napping is a great habit as well.
2. Hydrate – In spite of water’s long lists of benefits, it’s amazing how difficult it can be to remember to sip water and notice thirst. Keeping a water bottle in proximity is an obvious habit to promote hydration. Students ideally will have a BPA-free water bottle with pop up straw that they like.
3. Exercise – Whether it’s a daily walk, being on a sports team, or five jumping jacks and 10 push-ups some time every day — finding a way to exercise is essential for our minds as well as our body. For students feeling anxiety or whose attention can be easily compromised, this is a “must do” in some form or another – ideally with an intense workout several times a week, in addition to daily physical mini breaks.
4. Breathe & Smile – These are a two-for-one. To help us cope and calm our ever-assaulted sympathetic nervous system, ten breaths with a light smile will give a mini reboot to allow us to feel okay inside and out. Yeah, I’m talking about mindfulness basically. Daily breath breaks throughout the day, plus a regular practice with sitting, walking, or even eating delivers nothing but good outcomes. I try to train my students in mindful practices whenever possible, as I try to build it into my life too.
5. Read Something…Somehow – Obviously, as a literacy teacher I am biased, and few of you need to be convinced, but I have to remind myself to try to make time for reading. I count listening to books and podcasts (aka “ear reading”) as well. All reading is good reading – with benefits to social emotional thinking in addition to content learning and vocabulary development. Read in front of your kids, to your kids, and with your kids — and acknowledge them when you catch them reading.
These are not new – yet holding them as a framework distinctive from the habits that bolster maintaining them may offer a shift in approach.
These are the goals: Separately, are the habit systems that connect to executive function. Hold the goals, and build a system for the habits that bring the goals to life. Try to go for the magic 21 habit days in small increments (actually, research suggests it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days, but pick a number as a container). For example, if one opts to build in mindfulness, try what Dan Harris of “10% Happier” suggests – a mindful minute a day over the course of 21 days – see what happens. Here is a link to his challenge program. Tether a new habit into an already existing routine, so that the established one pulls the new one in. For example, a Sunday morning brunch routine can be followed by a cozy family read-in.
What are your solid gold goals? How do you approach goal-setting and habit development with your children or learners? Share your ideas below.
Whatever 2019 may bring for all of us, may we manifest kindness in what we do in our close world, so that it ripples through the larger world. Peace starts with kindness and compassion to ourselves, and spreads from there. Have a great year!
Some more resource links…
Sleep – See my Instagram post – please consider helping to promote a movement for later school start times.
Hydration – Water helps kids think. Find a water bottle that suits your kiddo – quality enough to function well, and cheap enough that you will not be upset when it is lost, because we will be lovingly replacing it when it is lost and left again and again. Here is a not-too-expensive one that is BPA-free with a pop-up straw, and inspirational water tracking.
Reading – I am partial to the classics – for a rich experience that we can share with our kids, but reading taste is personal. Here is a list at Common Sense that can be searched by age. Share what you love with your kids, and cozy up with a cup of cocoa and a good read this winter.
And for overall information on happiness and habits – I have recently heard from great interviews with Shawn Achor and want to share his work. Check him out.