Empty Nexter: How to create lasting change that improves your life

By Carrie Perrien Smith

artI submitted this article in mid-December so if you are reading this, the Mayans were wrong and the world did not end. In that case, we’ve again found ourselves at that time of year when we do silly things like make resolutions. It would be far better to look at ridding ourselves of things that are causing us discomfort instead. That means addressing our habits.

The best way to break a bad habit is to create a good habit that replaces it. Keep in mind that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit. And remember, the world is so busy today. If you want to succeed in improving your life, focus on one change at a time. If you want to tackle more habits, let the first of each month be a time to start on a new change. Imagine how awesome your life would be if you put one item in your life in improvement mode each month in 2013.

Analyze the Change You Need to Make

Here are three things to ask yourself about each habit you want to change:

What is my discomfort? Maybe it is a cluttered house or clothes that are too tight. Maybe you are tired because you don’t get enough sleep. Maybe you are worried that your family doesn’t talk enough. Maybe you don’t have enough money to save after all the bills are paid?

What is causing that discomfort? Break that cause down as far as you can. Is overeating or consuming high-calorie/low-value foods causing your clothes to be too tight? Is it the lack of exercise? Are you tired because you don’t go to bed early enough or because you can’t stay asleep? Does your family talk too little because they can’t sit down together for one meal a day? Is that because of extracurricular activities or because a family member travels? Do you have too little money or do you simply overspend? Is it time to go through your expenses one by one and evaluate how you can trim costs?

What are at least three activities that I can add/change to improve my discomfort? There are so many ways to research this. Google the topic and you’ll find tons of articles. Browse the book store for books and other resources on the topic. Don’t be afraid to ask your Facebook friends.

Here is an example of how to use the model.

My discomfort is clutter.

  • boxesHere is what is causing my clutter:
  • I don’t open the mail and read the newspaper on the day it arrives (or for weeks afterward)
  • I pile and leave instead of stop and file.
  • My mom sends me home with stuff that she no longer wants because I might truly have a use for it or know a place to donate it.
  • We moved and we still have packed boxes — many boxes.
  • My in-laws passed away in the last few years and we have all the things from their household that remind us of them — even though we have no use for them.
  • We have a business that takes up part of the space in our home.
  • We have not optimized our storage space.
  • I have higher-priority or urgent tasks that require my time.
  • I think that I will use some items when I get past this phase of my life.
  • I paid a lot for that piece of furniture and it will look great in our next house.
  • My daughter will need some of these items when she finally gets a house — or a daughter of her own.

Here are at least three activities to add or change to improve my discomfort.

  • Get rid of five things a day for a set period of time. Do it for a week or longer. I do this a couple of times a year without setting the time limit. I know when I get down to items like individual hair clips or pens, I’ve probably gone far enough. I clump things together too — the whole stack of last year’s Christmas cards or the entire 2006 collection of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I just finished doing a month in December and it was refreshing. I could still stand to do another month.
  • Don’t add something without getting rid of something. Say, for instance, you are buying a new television. Either get rid of the old television if you aren’t going to use it in another room or get rid of something else. If you feel daring, get rid of two things for every new thing you bring into the house.
  • Decide that something in use by someone who needs it is better than saving it until you will use it or can pass it on to your kids. Unless it is truly a family heirloom like a ring, a timeless, quality piece of furniture, or your Barbie collection, give it away. Okay, will someone please come to my house now and make me do that?
  • Set aside time each day to view and sort things like the mail or the newspaper. Then either file or purge. Create a plan for magazines too. Give them a shelf life of three months. If you find you haven’t read any in three months, cancel the subscription.
  • Optimize your storage space. Look for adjustable shelving and space-saving items like modular storage containers.

See how that model works? I made it SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Sure it would be easier to plan a day to purge your closet or clean the garage but most of us don’t really have a whole day to devote to something like that.

That’s the case with a lot of our discomforts — the perfect day never arrives to address the issue. Implementing our solutions to our discomforts using a steady, focused pace over a period of weeks instead will help us form new habits so we create a permanent solution to our discomfort.

Get an Accountability Partner

Depending on the discomfort you are tackling, you can probably find someone who is willing to hold you accountable. You might even want to find someone who is tackling the same discomfort. I call them a misery-loves-company partner. You can share ideas or challenge each other.

This Is Just the Beginning of a Great Year for You

You’ve got one life. Don’t let anything hold you back. If you are looking for more help with setting goals, I have a goal worksheet that you can use to set yours. It’s included with my article on setting Kick-Butt Goals at https://nwamotherlode.com/archives/19489. Go get ’em, tiger!

Smith-51 Twitter SquareCarrie Perrien Smith is mama to Darcie and a pack of black dogs (Snappy, Jazmin, and Midgieboy — in pack order), grandma to Robert, wife to world-traveler and Walmart-blue-bleeding Tom, daughter to Wayne and Phyllis, speaker bureau and publishing company owner, Business: Engaged! small business radio show host, community activist, singer in a party band, and home improvement junkie. Follow her on Twitter @soarwitheagles or contact her at carrie@soarhigher.com.

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