Knowing when to take a break, eating healthy meals, or setting boundaries – these are all examples of ways we can take care of ourselves and be our best at work. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s easier said than done putting these healthy habits into practice. We spoke to Melody Taylor, Growth and Development Coach at Jane, on her tips for building habits sustainably.
“We put so much pressure on ourselves to perfect new skills and behaviours from the moment we start. That all-or-nothing view can get in the way,” Melody shares. “Watch a child take on something new. What do they do? They try a bunch of different things, they experiment — they break things down into smaller pieces and build up.”
Similarly, she suggests reframing the concept of ‘I need to build a habit’ into ‘I’m going to replace this current practice with a different one.’
“By taking small steps towards sustainable habits for clinic success, practitioners can build long-term momentum towards achieving their goals over time - no matter how small those steps may be.”
Start small, achieve big
Knowing what you want to change in your life is the easy part. But it doesn’t take long for those big plans to become overwhelming, especially when you’re busy running a practice.
Melody recommends not biting off more than you can chew. “Don’t have a laundry list, pick one thing and just do that over and over again. I think one of the things that gets in the way of building habits is that we see them as this big monolith. Pick something tangible and small that you can integrate into your days easily.”
Melody warns that starting with too much complexity early on can get in the way of us actually taking action. She recommends aiming for something that you can achieve in six weeks as the sweet spot to really see the effects of your new practices.
Change without feeling overwhelmed
Melody recognizes that you can’t just drop everything to form new habits. When it comes to developing these practices, she urges people to acknowledge their capacity. A common trap she sees people fall into is that they view the limit of their capacity as a personal failure.
“I would love for people to reframe that idea in their mind. You’re a human being. You have a certain amount of capacity. Your capacity may be different from someone else’s, but just the fact that you have a certain amount of capacity in and of itself is not a failure.”
Small changes with big impacts can be as simple as saying no. Melody recalls a colleague who had received feedback from his team that they couldn’t rely on him. This frustrated him. Digging into the issue, she found out that he would say yes to every task the team had for him. It got to the point where he couldn’t effectively help any of them.
The simple change of rephrasing his answer and letting his team know that he couldn’t help them until he completed other work ended up making a huge change in his work life and the way his team perceived him.
It might not feel natural to say not right now, or to make a change that might make you uncomfortable. But by repeating the word no, repeating that new practice you’ve started it will become more accessible to you.
Celebrating your success
A lot of people reflect on their efforts after completing a project or trying to build out their new habits. They often ask questions like, “What went wrong? What do we want to avoid in future? What is there to learn from this?”
Melody recommends that you come at your reflections through the lens of appreciative inquiry. Make conscious decisions to frame your thoughts with questions like, “What went really well? What do we want to make sure we repeat in every project going forward?”
Remember to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may appear.
Embrace your motivation
When it comes to long-term success, Melody recommends taking the time to understand why this particular habit is important to you. Then, in moments of difficulty or resistance, refer back to that motivation as a way to encourage yourself to keep going.
“Habit building is thousands of little failures. If you view every one of those failures as a point of recrimination and lack compassion for yourself, it will stop you in your tracks and you won’t continue any further,” she says. “Tapping into that motivation is helpful because you can bring in a little injection of positivity.”
Habit-forming, is not always going to feel natural. “Remembering this is something that you want can help you offset the awkwardness you feel,” Melody says, adding that there is merit to the cliches like ‘fake it till you make it.’ There’s value in acting as if you are already that thing, even if it doesn’t feel real to you right now.
“Practice makes you better at whatever you’re practicing. We’re all practicing things every day. The key is whether they’re things we want to get better at.”