Forming the habit of gratitude is amazing, but I’ve found that developing gratitude can then make you even better at forming other habits.
How? Let’s take a look at the process of forming a new habit:
- Choose a new habit.
- Commit to doing it every day after a trigger.
- Remember to do it, enjoying as you do the habit.
- Then check in with accountability friends (optional but recommended).
Each of these steps can be infused with gratitude. And each step would be better, and more likely to be done, if gratitude was central to the step.
Let’s look at each step and why gratitude is important.
Gratitude & Choosing a New Habit
This is fairly straightforward: as you’re choosing a new habit, you can either 1) think, OK, I’m going to make myself do this new habit because it’ll be better for me or have certain benefits, or 2) think, darn, I’m pretty grateful that I even get the opportunity to try out this new habit.
In the first case, you’re looking at the benefits of doing the habit, and you can’t wait to get there. Of course, the benefits won’t come right away, nor will they be very strong after even a month. And you’ll trudge through the habit for as long as you can, and often stop because it’s too hard and the benefits take too long to get there.
But in the second case, you’re happy just to have the chance to do the habit. Your happiness comes right away. You know that not everyone has the chance to do this, and so you’re lucky, and pretty happy about it. Success before you even start!
Gratitude & Committing
When we commit to doing a habit, we commit to ourselves and (optionally) to others. This might mean we set the minimum commitment (say 30 days), the trigger (after coffee in the morning), and (optionally) the consequences (no TV if I miss 2 days in a row, and a nice massage if I get 28 out of 30 days).
All of this is fairly straightforward, but gratitude can make it more powerful in a couple of ways:
- When we commit to ourselves, do we just mechanically say, “I’m going to do this habit now”? Instead, we can try to really feel this commitment to ourselves, and be thankful that we can trust ourselves enough to make this commitment. Not everyone trusts themselves, but we do, otherwise we wouldn’t even commit to this habit.
- When we commit to others, again, we can do it half-heartedly, or we can do it with gratitude for having friends who are willing to share in this important, life-changing process. This is a wonderful thing, and if we don’t stop to appreciate it, we’ll take it lightly.
With gratitude, each of these commitments becomes stronger, more important.
Gratitude in Doing the Habit
When you start doing a habit, you can think, “OK, I’m going to do this, I have to” and then you do it like it’s a chore. You get it over with.
Or you can start with a small prayer of gratitude: “I’m grateful to be able to do this habit, grateful that I have such a joyous thing in my life.” And this makes doing the habit deeply enjoyable.
If you enjoy a habit, you’ll want to do it the next day. And the next. It’s something you look forward to, rather than put off.
Gratitude When You’re Checking In
After you do the habit, log it or tell people you did it. This is a little reward, and it helps you to stay accountable and motivated.
But this time can also be a time for thanks, that you have friends who are helping you, and that you did the habit again, that you’re making your life better one little step at a time.
Be thankful you did the habit, and you’ll appreciate what a miracle this process is, of creating a new habit!