Conversations at the Crossroads.

Breaking Bad [Habits]

In last month’s post, entitled Change One Thing, I shared the story of how a small intentional change began to have a ripple effect, opening up additional possibilities for shifts that I couldn’t have foreseen if I hadn’t taken that single first step. I heard from many of you that the post resonated, so today I am sharing the continuation of that story. (If you missed last month’s post or others, they’re all here.)

Emboldened by yesterday’s post about making small changes, I made another change last night: I tucked my mobile phone into bed in another room (not my bedroom).

I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping my phone with me, up until the minute I turn my lights out, when I plug it in to charge on my nightstand. This ritual allows for one last look at email and Facebook before I check out of my day, and it enables an immediate check-in the next morning. And, sometimes, if I can’t fall asleep or if I wake up in the middle of the night, perhaps I’ll grab a look then, too, because it’s so convenient and tempting.

What’s at stake here? Well, for starters, I’m not decompressing with my own thoughts in the final moments of my day, as I’m still open to stimulation and input from the outside world. If I come across something interesting during that last look, I might stay up later than I had intended, because I’m sparked with new considerations. In the morning, reaching for the phone seconds after my alarm goes off–before I’m even lucid, really– I’m bypassing a valuable warm-up phase during which I could think about how I’m feeling, how well I slept, or what I want to do with the day ahead. Without prioritizing an internal temperature check and some personal goal-setting, I’m allowing external factors to weigh in during a vulnerable state of being, which doubtless impacts the feelings I have and the directions I take as I embark upon my day.

I have so much to gain in reclaiming this time.

So, last night the phone stayed in my office. I had tried this previously and there were positive outcomes, but I hadn’t stuck with it. I’m going to try again to change the pattern.

After writing yesterday, I decided to think about this endeavor as “changing patterns” rather than “breaking habits.” We tend to classify habits as good or bad, and when we decide they’re bad it’s time to breakthem. It sounds so harsh and judgmental–like hard work, deprivation and punishment, and shame-on-you-for-having-these-habits. Patterns, on the other hand, are activities and behaviors we repeat and incorporate as ritual. The activities and behaviors might be meaningful, productive, and even necessary, but perhaps in the manner that we’ve created patterns from them they eventually stop working for us as well as they once did. For example, I’m not trying to disconnect from the world by ignoring technology. My phone is an essential device that supports my business needs and personal values, like staying connected to loved ones and finding my way around the city. But somewhere along the line I evolved into thinking I couldn’t do without it, even for the briefest time, and I developed patterns that allow it to be the boss of me. That’s the part I want to change.

The C.Y.P. Challenge I hereby declare is about Changing Your Patterns. Think about the patterns in your life that aren’t working for you anymore and how you might change one thing and see what happens. See how the pattern starts to look different. You’re allowing the activity or behavior to remain in your life, but in an evolved and more intentional way.

I’m not suggesting you change something every day. Change one thing and see how long you can stick with it. When you’re comfortable, try another. I’ve got my two for now (#1: Technology-free park visits, and #2: Phone sleeps alone) and I think I’m good for a little bit working on these. When I get settled into a new pattern, I’ll decide what else to explore. There’s something about this approach that seems very gentle and non-judgmental. Because, seriously, who needs more judgment in their life?

I’d really love if you would join me in the C.Y.P. Challenge. We might all learn something if we do it together, and I’d really enjoy knowing what others experience through it. What pattern would you like to shift? When do you feel most challenged to stick with your intention? How does it feel to have a new pattern? How will you know when you are ready to change one more thing?

Please share your thoughts on this and I will share out anonymously in a post or on Facebook. Your efforts to change your patterns are an inspiration to us all.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published September 12, 2013