Macro Themes and Micro Habits

Happy New Year everyone! I am so excited to share what’s been on my mind as we kick off 2019. I’m exceedingly happy with what I’ve been able to achieve both personally and professionally this past year and grateful to have the opportunity to share my insights with you.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be helping dozens of clients design and craft their 2019 goals. In fact, as a wellness coach, I live in the world of goal setting. The more seasoned a coach I become, the more I want to share about this fascinating topic! I intended to sit down and write all about my newfound passion for micro habits until I just came came across  a New York Times article How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year with the Help of Science. so I’ll include a talk about macro themes. Finally, no New Year’s blog of mine would be complete without my “Love It, Leave It, Change It, Add It” goal setting template.

Macro Themes

In the Times article, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. (and one of my favorite researchers) suggested that we couch our goals into a theme or themes for the year, giving a more fluid sense of accomplishment. I love this idea. In fact, I did it years ago but had fallen out of this yearly habit. A macro theme allows goal setting to be more flexible and takes into account the ups and downs of everyday life. It keeps our eye on the prize when obstacles arise. Also, an overarching theme can help us restructure a goal without feeling deflated. I took a look at the major things I wanted to accomplish this year and my macro theme jumped off the page: It’s the Year of the New; new yoga poses, new artistic work and a new way of making it, a new way to communicate wellness, a new book, a new meditation practice, and some new friends. I am challenging myself to a new and exciting life. I really want to shake things up!

What would you like your macro theme to be? It may or may not jump out at you right away. If not, take a few minutes to write down some goals you’d like to accomplish by the end of the year and see if there are any common threads. Heck, you may have just one goal such as lowering your blood pressure, in which case you may have the macro theme as the Year of Calm. It may even inspire more goals to add to your list such as massages, exercise, stress management, etc… who wouldn’t want a year of calm?

Micro Habits

After another year of intense wellness coaching I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the little, minor, micro habits that form the strongest foundation to any behavior change. As a result, I have a whole new take on how I approach goal setting. To start, it’s all about the level of confidence you have for a particular goal and it’s unique to every goal and every individual. The bigger the confidence, the bigger the goal can be. But if you are a mere mortal like most of us, starting a new behavior can be difficult and it’s particularly difficult if you’ve failed at it before.

If you want to cultivate a daily habit, for example, it’s better to do that thing, no matter how small everyday than more of it fewer days of the week. I call it keeping even the very tip of your pinky in the pot (and not your hold hand all at once). You’re still in it. You are giving yourself  an opening, no matter how tiny it may be, to introduce a new behavior pattern and a new neural pathway to be formed.

I’ve been trying to maintain a consistent meditation practice for years. Despite the numerous books I’ve read, the yoga classes I take, the meditation workshops I facilitate, I haven’t been able to do it. It’s a really important goal of mine, not just as a mindfulness facilitator but also because it’s good for my wellbeing and I enjoy it. In the past, I was setting too lofty a goal for myself to keep my practice consistent so I was always in failure mode. Now, I’m going to apply the micro habit strategy. I decided that I could find a minimum of 30 seconds every single day for the entire year to meditate. Yep, 30 seconds.

Ideally, I’m going to do this in the morning (creating a daily habit at the same time everyday helps you to achieve it faster). In fact this morning, I stood in my bathroom, hands in a prayer position in front of my heart, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and quieted my mind for 30 seconds. My new mediation practice just kicked off. Anything that I do over 30 seconds is a bit fat bonus. I can only imagine how good I will feel after a year of daily meditation. Who knows, I may end up meditating 10 minutes a day or more, but at the minimum, I will have cultivated a small daily practice that is as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth.

Is there a daily habit that’s been a thorn in your side? Can you think of ways you can downsize it to make it more attainable no matter what your ego is telling you. Remember, what is easy for you can be excruciatingly hard for someone else and visa versa. A little humility goes a long way!

Love It, Leave It, Change It, Add It

I came up with the “Love It, Leave It, Change It, Add It” structure a couple of years ago and you can read more about it here. In summary, it’s a simple way to set goals by identifying the things you love to do and want to keep doing (Love It), say goodbye to behaviors that don’t serve you (Leave It), modify things that could work better (Change It), and begin something new (Add It).

Here’s a snapshot of what mine looks like for 2019:

Screen Shot 2019-01-01 at 4.09.52 PM

If you’d like to work with me on setting your 2019 goals don’t hesitate to email me at  katherine@bendburnbreathe.com. I offer complimentary 30 minute consultations. Coaching rates are available upon request.

Have a wonderful and accomplished New Year filled with fun, joy and anticipation for great things to come!

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