One of the biggest questions people have for me, if they stick to the Sea Change program for more than 2-3 months, is how to deal with multiple habits at once?
So you start out by creating one habit the first month — great! Then a new habit the second month — awesome! And then a third habit the third month — woah, this is cool, but is it sustainable? And then when you get to the fourth month, you feel a bit overwhelmed. By the time your in month 5-6, yikes, things are hard to maintain.
Yes, this is a problem.
We’re going to figure out how to deal with them right now. Woohoo! Habits are like a big party, right?
Let’s look at three different strategies, and then how to figure out what to do.
Strategy 1: Combine Habits
This strategy can be really cool if the habits you’re forming complement each other. If they do, you might be able to do two at once, or in conjunction.
- Combine gratitude with decluttering (or another physical habit) – take each item you’re decluttering, and be grateful it was in your life and is going out to a better home, and then be grateful for the items still in your life.
- Combine meditation with exercise – take a minute to meditate before you exercise, then practice mindfulness while doing the exercise itself.
- Combine meditation with healthy eating and gratitude – mindfully consider your meals beforehand, have a gratitude prayer before you eat each food, eat food in silence mindfully, watching your thoughts and feelings and truly experiencing the flavors of the healthy food.
- Combine writing daily with procrastination – really they’re the same habit, of clearing aside distractions, and just writing (instead of procrastinating).
And so forth. This can help make your habits manageable, so you don’t have to have a thousand new habits filling up your schedule.
Strategy 2: Drop Habits
But sometimes you just can’t manage 12 new habits, and it’s better if you drop a habit or two.
So what you want to do is evaluate which habits you’re really enjoying, and which are having the biggest positive impact on your life. Sometimes habits sound good but once you put them into practice they’re not what you imagined they’d be.
Give yourself permission to drop a habit. You can always come back to it later, but permission to drop a habit is acknowledgement that you can’t cram everything into an already-busy schedule, and you need to give yourself space to focus on what you really want in your life at this moment.
Strategy 3: Two-Month Habits
In this strategy, you consciously choose not to form a new habit every month, not to join us on every new module in Sea Change.
I have a new module each month for those who want to join, but it’s not mandatory, nor even recommended for every single person. Some people don’t want to form the new month’s habit, and some already have enough habits to work on.
So in this strategy, you choose to take two months to form a habit, or even three. This way the habit will be much more solid, and you don’t form new habits at such a breakneck speed that it’s unmanageable for your life.
How to Decide What to Do
So how do you decide which strategy to use — or whether to just tough it out and find room & energy for all the habits?
Here’s what I’d suggest:
- When considering a new habit, check your gut, and see whether it feels like a huge burden to add another habit, or if you feel comfortable with the other habits you’ve formed and want to do another. If you feel good about it, go for it! If not, continue to the next step.
- Consider the two-month habits strategy. Honestly, for most people and for most habits, two months is much better. I just do a new habit a month on Sea Change because people are too impatient to wait two months. :)
- Next, if you really want to add the new habit, consider combining two habits, if the new habit would nicely combine with one of your existing habits.
- Finally, there’s nothing wrong with dropping an old habit to make room for a new one. The old habit might have worked well in your life, but maybe it’s not exciting you anymore, or the new one is more attractive. Dropping is perfectly permissible. It creates some nice space for a new habit.
I’ve dropped many habits in my habit-change career. Habits are a flexible pursuit of learning, not a rigid plan you have to follow for life. Your lifestyle changes as you create and drop and modify habits, but over time, fluidly, as you learn what works for you at this moment. That might be one thing this month, but a completely different thing in six months from now. Don’t get stuck on one way — be open to many ways.
The thing you want to avoid, though, is trying to fit a dozen new habits in your life and then dropping them all because you overloaded. If you feel in danger of that, wipe out multiple habits at once, but keep the ones that matter most. Use this new space to refresh your habit change.