What Failure Taught Me About Setting Habits That Stick

Posted by Kelley Bren Burke on

What failure taught me about creating habits that stick

I’m doing a Happy New Month Challenge in 2016. The goal is to create a new healthy habit each month. Ideally, I’ll stick to each month’s new habit of the rest of the year. 

Healthy Habit for March: Walking

My “Happy New Month” habit for March was walking. It’s best to start small with habits, so I committed to walking one of our dogs around the block every day. It was okay for me to do make up days. For example, if I didn’t walk on Friday, I could make up for it on Saturday by walking around two blocks. 

Walking isn’t the juiciest blog topic, I’m realizing. What can I tell you? It was March in Minnesota. Usually it was cold and I bundled up. Usually I walked with our dog Gracie. She likes walking more than our dog Murphy does. 

Grass Lake, a small Minnesota lake in early Spring

I was successful. I missed one day out of 31. It was fairly easy to follow through my new healthy habit. When I didn't want to walk, I reminded myself that walking aroung the block took about 8 minutes out of my day. I also reminded myself that I usually enjoyed walking. My Way of Life habit tracking app helps. 

Way of Life Habit Tracking App Example Trend Graph

This blog is also a big motivator. I don’t want to pop up and write a blog about how I didn’t follow through with my Happy New Month habit. 

What failure taught me about healthy habits

 Happy new month! Blog about a year of creating new healthy habits

Have you noticed there wasn’t a January habit? It’s because I struggled with my habits in January. First, I was going to track calories in my Lose It! app. I’ve done this on and off over the years. Science shows that keeping a food journal helps you lose weight. 

My challenge with the Lose It! app is the data entry. My husband is a talented cook. We like variety. He rarely cooks the same meal twice in any given month. To create calorie tracking for a recipe, you have to create a recipe in the app and enter in all the ingredients. That’s ultimately the buzz kill for me. 

I floundered with calorie tracking habit mid month. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel joyful, or even productive. It was just one more thing to do. 

I switched habits mid month. I decided to drink less wine. Every now and then, I go a month or two without drinking. The first few times I did this, I was expecting a nice payoff, to be honest. Maybe weight loss, improved mood, something? Every time, it’s just kind of a “meh” result for me. And that was the case this time. I drank tea instead of wine. Some nights it was fine. Some nights I wanted wine. The result was “meh”. 

So, there I was. Month Two in my triumphant Happy New Month! plan with a dumb result. I didn’t want to track calories and have a strict plan for drinking wine for the rest of the year.  I knew I would blog about January’s struggles sometime, but I wasn’t ready to bust out of the gate with it. In general, I’m a very tenacious person. I follow through on my commitments. I didn’t want to start a blog with a result that’s not typical for me. 

I spoke with my sister about January’s struggles. While I was talking to her, I realized that what I really wanted for this year was to ADD healthy habits: meditation, reading, walking. It doesn’t appeal to me to have a punitive, subtracting kind of mindset. That helped me clarify my goal setting. When I’m adding a new month’s healthy habit, now I make sure that I’m adding, not subtracting. 

Oh, and speaking of failure: When I wrote the title of this post, I misspelled "taught" as "tought".  "Tought" looked funny, so I googled it. As usual, Urban Dictionary was there to help:

urban dictionary screen grab misspelling of taught tought


Thanks for keeping it real, Urban Dictionary. 

Healthy Habit for April: Gratitude

April’s habit will be Gratitude. When I’m thinking of a Happy New Month habit, I start by researching habits that are proven to boost happiness and wellbeing. Why not, right? The science says that gratitude enhances relationships, physical health, and psychological health. Then I think about what sounds joyful and helpful for me. 

I’m going to do four things to increase my gratitude through April. I’m going to write about gratitude in my The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal, in my gratitude journal, and in my Day Designer Planner. I’m also going to revisit the Appreciation Series Pack in my Headspace meditation app

My Gratitude goals are fairly easy, so I’m adding another block to my walking habit. The goal is to walk two blocks a day, or about 15 minutes a day. 

I’ll let you know how my new healthy habits go next month. I also just realized that I never wrote about my February habit of reading. I’ll write about that in the near future. 

Have you added any new healthy habits lately? Would you ever try a year of Happy New Months? 

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