Summertime is upon us. Long days, warm weather, and relaxation are the expectation. But what if we took a different approach to the way we conceptualize summer? Summer represents an opportunity to build a new habit; Is there something you’ve been putting off for a while? Maybe you’ve been wanting to learn a new skill, find a new workout regimen, or develop a side hustle. What is possible in 3 months if you apply yourself?
James Clear, author of the book “Atomic Habits,“describes that it takes around 66 days for a behavior to become automatic. Once you decide what you’d like to accomplish in these next three months, you can identify the behaviors that coincide with that vision, and start to build habits around them.
Maybe you want to become a better writer or photographer. It might sound obvious, but the action that coincides with these aspirations is writing or taking photos every day. If you form a habit of doing this every day, you might not use every word or photo for something “professional,” but you will have an increasing portfolio of work and will be sharpening your skills every day which will only improve your work moving forward. This action will also help you build a portfolio of work that you can pull from in the future. Once an idea is on paper, or a photo has been taken, it’s alive in the world and can be revisited whenever it’s needed.
Maybe you are hoping to start a business but don’t know the first step to take. An actionable step would be to do your homework. If you’re not sure how to get started, look into the stories and backgrounds of people doing things that inspire you. How did they get started? What were they focused on? Commit to daily research and take some notes along the way. Before you know it you’ll find yourself inspired by the stories and guidance of others and feel better prepared to take a stab at something on your own. There are plenty of resources out there that can help with this. Check out the “How I Built This Podcast” or Tim Ferriss’ book “Tools of Titans” to help you get started. A good rule of thumb for when you don’t know a tangible step to take is to focus on learning. The right step will reveal itself when you’re ready.
Maybe you genuinely have no idea what you want to do, but you know you want to do something. Follow your curiosities. What interests you? What are a few topics or fields you feel drawn to but haven’t taken the time to learn about? There might be an opportunity waiting for you there, you just have to tap into your own unique spirit of curiosity.
Chances are, the things you’re naturally curious about are the things you would be most passionate about. Discovering a career or hobby opportunity within a space that lights up your mind is a powerful way to discover purpose in your life. If you don’t take the initiative to discover what that might be for you, you can end up working hard within someone else’s dream or passion project.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
Whatever you decide to commit to, it’s going to take work. The equation for success is repetition of the right stuff. Once you decide what you’re moving toward, you can better identify what the right stuff is. The point is to create momentum for yourself through the habits you develop. If repetition of the right actions is the recipe for success, it’s in your best interest to make these actions automatic in your day to day life. The only way to do that is to get started and find light hearted ways to hold yourself accountable along the way. Most things that are worth doing are difficult, not only at the start, but throughout the process. Discovering ways to make the journey interesting and enjoyable is a critical piece of staying on the right path.
James Clear references a technique called “The Paper Clip Strategy,” which is basically a visual cue that helps you stay accountable for the habits you want to form. He gives the example of a salesman aspiring to make 120 sales calls every single day. Each morning he’d put two jars on his desk, one filled with 120 paper clips, and the other empty. After each call he made, he’d transfer one of the paper clips over to the empty jar until it was filled.
We are visual beings, it’s largely how we make sense of the world. Giving yourself some sort of visual cue can provide motivation and a reminder that you’re on the right path, doing the things you committed to.
Calendars and schedules can also help with goal setting. Checking a box on a calendar or a schedule is a great visual way to hold yourself accountable. Write yourself a note on the mirror you look into every morning. Leave a sticky note on your laptop that reminds you what you need to be doing. Make it difficult for yourself to hide from the plan you made by giving yourself visual reminders that help you stay the course.
Make it fun! At first it might be difficult to stick with the new habits you’re trying to create. If it’s a difficult point of entry, reward yourself in some way for getting it done. Do something you enjoy AFTER you carry out the action you’re hoping to develop into a habit. At a certain point your brain will start to associate the positive action with the reward that comes after, making it easy to stick with.
Although this is a useful and helpful tactic, be careful that the reward doesn’t cancel out the positive action. If your defined goal is working out every day, don’t reward yourself every time with a tub of ice cream. Consider rewarding yourself at the end of each week or cycle of the action completed. Balance and longevity is the goal.
What is possible in three months if you commit to the journey? Whatever your summer goals may be – turning the actions required into automatic habits will help you get there.