Developing Good Habits– My Battles and Learnings

Resolution season has just passed. I have a long list of things I want to do, bad habits I would want to quit and new habits I would love to develop. Over the years out of my naïveté I have read and believed a couple of dozen articles on how to change habits. I do not know about you. But for me developing good habits as an adult has been the most difficult thing I had to do. The journey has been long, tedious, filled with relapses:-). So, firstly I want to say that 99% of those articles do not work, they did not work for me. few examples are:

  • 10 new habits to develop– It is a battle to develop one habit and they are nudging us to go for 10?
  • 5 habits of most successful people that you should have– These just outright make me feel bad about myself.

Who writes these articles?

Clearly these run of the mill articles are not written by an adult who has actually struggled failed and persevered to make a new habit.

So, here I am sharing my two cents of lived reality or behind the scenes:-) of making new habits in the hope that you will find it useful or simply have a good laugh at the struggle of an adult trying to pick good habits.

Glorious Beginning

It began when we became frugal, quit our jobs and moved to Goa. We realized that one of our biggest expenses has been eating out.

**Flashback** before moving to Goa. This was our typical food situation-I would eat breakfast at home, carry home-cooked lunch, dinner take-out at work around 6-7 pm or at home. Weekends except for breakfast most meals would be outside of home trying some of the other new places. Add a few rounds of coffee at cafes and work lunch with colleagues. In short lots of eating out at fancy places just for fun.

However, once we moved to Goa we wanted to create good habits that also save us some money. We zero-ed in on the habit of eating home-cooked food to save money. I love food and just can’t do with just dal, roti, sabzi. I need variety and I am not easy to please. So we decided that I will cook fancy things at home- and so we did- Italian, Mexican, continental, Chinese, Thai and of-course north Indian and south Indian food.

The contrast was drastic- from not cooking at all I was cooking elaborate meals. For ex: for our first dinner guests I made Pizza, greek salad and chocolate cake all from scratch. even the mozzarella cheese & feta cheese were made at home by me (I know how awesome:-). We were nailing it at being frugal and fun!!!

For the next dinner guests, we had Chinese – Manchurian, fried rice and rum balls all again made from scratch and for the very first time!!

Not so good middle

So, I would say we started pretty well. The new habit could not have gone any better but soon we started to crib about cooking at home, looking for the first opportunity to order food. Anyway, it did not sustain and it got so bad that we moved out from a quaint village to a bustling city and one reason was access to restaurants. Once we moved all hell broke loose… we ate out like mad;-(

At this level we decided maybe it will be better if we hire a cook, thinking that it will cut our eating out expenses. So, we hired a cook. But soon as you can guess, we got bored with her cooking and again started eating out frequently.

We felt guilty and decided to do something about it. So I showed some videos to my cook on youtube and urged her to make simple dishes like- Hakka noodles, Thai green curry, Pao bhaji, etc… Well, the problem was she would forget the recipe next time I asked her to cook the same dish. Like a fool, I would not save any of the recipes and go online every-time to search and show her the recipes. This whole exercise again dissuaded me to ask her to make any special food. Again we resorted to cribbing about her cooking and ordering out.

Reasonable Ending

The old cook left and the new cook joined us. With new cook came new enthusiasm. But this time I was smarter- Firstly I created a folder in Evernote– sort of online organizer. Then I started saving all the recipes on it. Secondly, I asked the cook to keep her own notebook to make her notes for the next time she had to cook that dish.

We even created a folder to save our mother’s recipes but and a big but we did not consistently save recipes because Evernote was not synced to all our devices. and I was using different devices to show her recipes. So we were again going for days just showing cook new recipes but not saving it.

Thankfully we were determined this time so I got Evernote on all my devices and downloaded web clipper. The web clipper is a game-changer, this has made saving things online super-super easy. This saves me time and I am building the repository of all our favorite dishes. The best part is I can also add my personal notes to each recipe. I am doing all of this now after 4 years of trial and tribulations.

My Message on Developing Good Habits

Now what I am trying to convey to you about developing good habits from this long story is:

1. Set reasonable Goal

It is easy to get over-excited and go all out while changing a habit. Later feel overwhelmed, then crib and quit, and feel guilty about it. This is usually the first stage and we over-promise and over-do it out of excitement. My advice would be to take baby steps. eg. we should have hired the cook from day one and maybe cooked ourselves 1-2 times a week to learn new dishes.

2. New Habits are not made overnight:

Be Patient. Having an intention is good. Reading an article about it helps you collect information. This is a good start. But habits are made slowly and steadily. You may have few failed attempts and that is okay. Change is the most difficult thing. To change as an adult is an outright battle. It takes perseverance and every last ounce of your will power. So, learn with every failed attempt and move on. In my instance, I learned that having tools helps- youtube video, online repository- Evernote all these helped me to keep up. So, figure out some tools to help you through the change.

3.Improvise- Habit formation is not a straight-forward journey

If you want to exercise, but can’t get up early to do it. Start working out in the evening. If you can not go to the gym start swimming or even walking. Keep exploring until you find the right fit that works for you. habit formation is not a straight-forward journey, it often first teaches you things about yourself and then bring about change.

4. At a Time Focus on one Major Habit

Lastly, it takes time to master a new habit and it is not a straight journey. You regress many times. So, please just identify 1-2 most important habits you want to inculcate in life and then dedicate a couple of years of your life to master it.

So, be it a new habit to save money or exercise or like us to eat at home. Pick your battle wisely as you only have limited focus and energy.

5. Keep a sense of humor about it

I personally get very serious about things very quickly and it seems to backfire as I get tensed and stressed. It doesn’t harm to laugh about your slip-ups sometimes rather than to be extremely critical of yourself all the time.

Writing this blog post was very cathartic for me! I hope It does add some value to you too.

Previously published on Savinghabit.com.

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