Switching Up The Same Ol’ Habits For Better Ones

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When was the last time you did something out of the ordinary? Shook up your ingrained habits for ones that were foreign to you? Studies show that breaking from your traditional mode is good for the brain – it allows synapses to connect in new ways, gets you outside of your comfort zone, and generally makes you a more well-rounded individual. What’s not to like? But how do you go from indecision to action? Here’s a quick list to start you off:

1. Dig deep to find why the habit has been elusive up until now. You may have continuously told yourself that you’re “not a morning person” or “can’t cook” or “just hate running,” enough that it’s fully reinforced. But is the reason you’re not able to rise early actually because you burn the midnight oil? You sleep poorly? You’re overwhelmed? Bed just feels way too good? ( Understand that last one completely) Unpack why you think that oft-repeated mantra is a fact, and you may just find that it’s much more open to interpretation and ready for change.

2. Set up habit tracker that reminds you to stay on track. My personal favorite is Habit Forge which helps you track new habits for 21-days (the scientifically proven amount of time necessary to implement most new habits). You miss a day? It resets. If you prefer the Benjamin Franklin model of keeping your own notebook to stay on track, give that a go.

3. Get ahead of yourself. If you know you want to accomplish ten little goals tomorrow, give yourself an extra hour in morning, turn off the phone for an hour, carve out some space to get things done. Because that lecture you give yourself when you don’t get through your checklist doesn’t do anyone any good.

4.  Break the status-quo. Our minds are often on auto-pilot. Take notice of when you’re about to go down a familiar path, and see if you can find 5 other alternatives. Follow any of them.

5. Make it fun. If life-hacking your way to a more rewarding day-to-day doesn’t sound like an adventure waiting to happen, reevaluate. Make sure you’re looking at the changes as opportunities to grow instead of tasks-you-have-to-follow-or-else. Life’s too short not to enjoy it.

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Love Lessons from Stoppard

From “The Invention of Love,” a play in which Stoppard focuses on Latin-scholar Housman’s life and his relationships with his peers and professors (including Pater, Wilde, and Ruskin).

He postulates on the catalysts for this crazy little thing we call love:

“They loved, and quarreled, and made up, and loved, and fought, and were true to each other and untrue. She made him the happiest man in the whole world and the most wretched, and after a few years she died, and then, when he was thirty, he died, too. But by that time Catullus had invented the love poem.”

A great deal of the play concerns itself with the importance of education – even outside of the typical confines of the university. This passage is easily one of my favorites:

“The Renaissance teaches us that the book of knowledge is not to be learned by rote but is to be written anew in the ecstasy of living each moment for the moment’s sake. Success in life is to maintain this ecstasy, to burn always with this hard gem-like flame. Failure is to form habits. To burn with a gem-like flame is to capture the awareness of each moment; and for that moment only. To form habits is to be absent from those moments. How may we always be present for them?—to garner not the fruits of experience but experience itself?”

This play was another one of my gifts from the holiday season. While not as famous as some of his other works (Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), I’ve found it to be immersive and quite moving. If you’re in the mood for an intellectual and imaginative journey with Mr. Stoppard, this one is a good bet.