Can you make it a habit to be a good partner? Are there such things as “good relationship habits”? (I can hear you being skeptical from all the way over here.) You might be sick of hearing me talk about habits by now (not stopping anytime soon!), but I truly believe that they’re one of the secrets to a life well-lived. Studies vary, but psychologists and neurologists estimate that between 40 and 95% of what we do every day is habitualized – including how we interact with our partners. So it stands to reason that building even one good relationship habit (or breaking a bad one), could have a big impact on your relationship. If you’re not sure where to start, read on!
When Jen’s email pings into my inbox, my first reaction is to lean back and squint. I’ve asked Jen for feedback on the course she just took and I’m expecting/hoping for a few kind words, some constructive criticism, and maybe some hard numbers if she’s willing to share them. Some numbers in the low four figures. That’s what I was expecting. Instead, Jen told me that my course had given her the courage to negotiate a €12,000 raise. That’s almost $14,000 for us Yanks! Whaaaaaaaat?! And while I am, of course, happy that Bank Boost nudged Jen to negotiate for a bigger salary, the truth is this: Jen got what she wanted because she asked for it. There are a million blog posts bouncing around the internet that tell us how to reach goals, manifest our dreams, and change our habits. (I know this because I write a lot of those blog posts.) Many of these blog posts walk us through the art of getting clear on what we want, breaking our goals into teeny, tiny steps, and working towards what we want on a consistent basis. And these are all important parts of getting what we want. But. None of that means anything if we’re not willing to ask for it. Let's say you want to get into an amazing party. Breaking goals into little pieces is walking up the sidewalk, asking for what you want is knocking on the door. Click To Tweet
Our resolution ideas are often – what’s the word? – unsustainable? Unrealistic? Way too ambitious which sets us up to fail and then feel bad about ourselves thus creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt?
(that last one was 22 words)
If you’re nodding along because you’ve already abandoned your resolutions or good habits by January 9th, may I be so bold as to suggest one (or maybe two AT MOST) of these tiny, super doable resolutions instead?
“I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. I mean, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for you.”
I sniff noisily into my Kleenex.
“Like, NONE of this.”
This is not a conversation I have out loud. I do, however, have some version of this conversation in my mind with my 2008 self on a regular basis.
My 2008 self – that scrappy, newly-single, saddled with $50,000 of school debt self – had the gumption and forethought to plant the seeds for the life I have today.
My 2008 self paid $375 a month on her school loans, even when she was living on her own and her take-home pay was $2,000 a month.
My 2008 self spent every lunch hour leaving comments on other blogs, building friendships and professional relationships I still have today.
My 2008 self slathered on moisturizer with SPF every day, even though she thought she didn’t need it. Even when it was overcast and cold.
And my 2018 self is reaping the benefits. Thanks Former Self! You’re the best! I love you!
I not exactly a bastion of forethought. I’m actually the captain of the S.S. Instant Gratification. Left to my less-great inclinations, I head up team Why Don’t I See Results Yet Let’s Give Up.
But at the risk of really running this metaphor into the ground, that’s not how seeds or plants or plans work.
I’d never plant a marigold seed and return the next day expecting a flower. I wouldn’t dig up the seeds after two days and yell at them. I’d water them and give them the time, space, and sun they needed to grow.
In my course Bank Boost* we do something called an Earning Spree. For six weeks, we get out of our comfort zones together and do all sorts of things to bring in extra money. Some of the things we do bring immediate dollars. We sell old sports equipment on Craigslist. We start driving for Lyft.
But we also plant seeds for our future selves, for our future financial health. We send pitches. We run promotions. We finally post about our dog-sitting services on Facebook and Nextdoor. We ask for a raise or send out feelers for a new job.
And maybe the results are not quite as immediate as finally selling that Nordic-track, but they add up. They bloom into something wonderful.
9 ways to plant seeds for Future You
1. Set up an auto-transfer from your checking account to your savings. $15 a month. $75. Maybe your savings account is in another bank so you’re less likely to fuss with it. Slowly but surely, you’ll build a nest-egg without even thinking about it.
2. If there’s something that dramatically improves your life but you always forget to buy – vitamins, new toothbrush heads, non-hole-y underwear – sign up for a monthly subscription service that delivers those life-improving things to your doorstep.
Or just buy them in bulk.
3. Similarly, if there’s a service that dramatically improves your life and you go too long between appointments – therapy, massages, car detailing – schedule your next appointment as you finish your current one. If you really want to create accountability, pre-pay so you don’t skip out.
5. When you know you’ve got a tough time coming up, sit down with your calendar and literally schedule breaks and fun into your month. In three weeks, you’ll be so glad you had the foresight to schedule that matinee with your sister or that quiet night at home.
6. Put granola bars (or another snack of your choice) in your bag, in your desk, and in your glove compartment. I swear to you, doing this saves me hundreds of dollars every year and prevents so many mid-afternoon-out-and-about Taco Bell runs.
7. Open your calendar for 2019 and block off one weekend each quarter. What are you going to do on those weekends? Who knows? But since you’ve saved the space, it’s less likely that you’ll reach the end of the year saying “I never took that trip!”
8. Got an idea? Buy the url.
9. Going on a trip or vacation? Put fresh sheets on the bed, make sure you’ve got some pizza in the freezer, and schedule an Instacart delivery for a few hours after you get home.
I want to hear from you! What seeds did Former You plant that you’re now harvesting? What seeds can you plant right now? Tell us in the comments to create public accountability!
It’s 3 am on a Wednesday night in 2016 and I’m awake. Again. As per the usual. I stare at the ceiling and try to do those breathing exercises you read about in Real Simple, but get bored and give up. I toss and turn and huff and puff and make lists in my mind of various things I need to do when I finally get out of bed. Mend that sweater. Send that thank-you note. Figure out LinkedIn – do I even need it? Eventually, I fall into a distracted, light sleep and wake up poorly rested and cranky. I drink coffee all day to counteract the exhaustion and the entire process repeats itself that night. Wake at 3 am. Toss for an hour and a half. Fall back into a sub-par sleep. Wake up feeling awful. For a long time – years! – I slept poorly. But it didn’t seem like a big deal. Everybody I knew seemed to be low-key exhausted. Everybody fell asleep in front of Netflix at 2 am. Everybody shared memes about coffee.
And then one day, I happened upon this article and this collection of sentences: The cumulative long-term effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
After decades of research, the case can be confidently made that sleep loss and sleep disorders have profound and widespread effects on human health.
Oh, what’s that? You mean my daily choices could slowly add up to a heart attack or stroke or depression? That thing I don’t think is a big deal will become a big deal if I do it every day for years? Confronted with these rather terrifying findings, I pretty quickly changed my ways. I used the very same methods I teach in Habit School to give up caffeine completely. And I bought this. Now I sleep like a baby 90% of the time. Carrie Bradshaw-like, this got me thinking: where would I be in three years if I kept the exact same habits I have today? What would my life look like if I did those things – those “not a big deal” things – every day for three years? Imagine it. Imagine eating dinner standing over the sink every night for three years. Or 1,000 days of Instagram stalking our exes. Or 1,000 days of making excuses about why we haven’t finished that project we were so excited about.
We humans love to overestimate the positive effects of our (very) occasional good choices. We work out for two days and expect to have a six pack. We use one coupon and think we’ve topped off our Roth IRAs. We take a three-day break from social media and think we’re ready to join a Buddhist monastery. <- hello, I’m talking about myself. Meanwhile, we convince ourselves that we’re doing these non-great things “just for today” or “just because it’s the busy season” or “because it’s the holidays.” It’s been scientifically proven that we chronically underestimate our own alcohol use,spending, and social media use.
It’s Saturday night and I’m cuddled into the corner of my friend’s couch. The wine is flowing, the fireplace is roaring, and we’re all picking at the post-dinner party cheese tray. We’ve progressed to the part of the night where enough time has passed (and enough wine has been consumed), that we’ve given ourselves over to gossip. We’ve talked about That Couple’s divorce and That Friend’s propensity towards oversharing on Facebook. Gossiping and passing judgement are my greatest vices and the character traits I like least in myself. But the gossip is contagious and before I know it, I’m saying things I shouldn’t and sharing stories that are absolutely not mine to share. Groooooss. Of course, I take 99% of the responsibility for this behavior but the truth is, that quote we see on Pinterest is REAL. We are, in fact, the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Pretty much everything humans do is socially contagious.
We’re pack animals! We evolved to live in groups, to cooperate and collaborate with others so we could, like, get the best cave, the best Mastodon drumstick, and not get exiled to the dark, cold tundra. So it makes sense that everything, ever is socially contagious. We’re ‘safer’ when we’re behaving like the people around us. But what happens when our friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers make choices that aren’t right for us?
What happens when we ‘catch’ habits and behaviors that actually push us further from the people we want to be?