- Major life events create stress that can weaken your existing habits.
- Instead of allowing stress to weaken your good habits, you can use it to weaken bad habits—
- Or create new ones.
- When a major life event is on the horizon, start planning a new daily routine. What do you want the next phase of your life to look like?
If you’re American and pregnant, chances are that Target knew before you did.
At this point, it’s an apocryphal story about data science: in 2012, The New York Times posted an in-depth story about the data algorithms and human behaviors that can tell if someone is pregnant in order to present the parent-to-be with just the right offers to get them into the store. But why pregnancy? Why not attempt to discern if someone just got a raise and has more money to spend, or if they’re trying to go on a diet?
“As the marketers explained to Pole — and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop — new parents are a retailer’s holy grail [...] There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments — the moment, really — is right around the birth of a child, when parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and their shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs.”
Pregnancy is just one of many of the major events on the Life Change Index Scale. This scale is used to define major stressors that may affect your physical and emotional health; it’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it gives you a good sense of the kinds of events that can send your habits up into the air. If you’ve ever felt your diet slip after a major breakup, or started getting up a little later in the day after moving to an apartment closer to your workplace, you know what I mean.
But what if we treated these major life events as opportunities?
The book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business opens with the story of Lisa Allen, a woman initially described as being $10,000 in debt, never having held down a job for more than a year, and a smoker and drinker since the age of 16. Five years later, Lisa was debt-free, fit, neither smoked nor drank, and had been working in the same job as a graphic designer for 39 months. She’d lost 60 pounds and run a marathon.
Lisa had an epiphany five years earlier: her husband had just left her for another woman, and she took an impulsive trip to Cairo, during which she decided she needed to stop smoking— with the goal of eventually being able to return to Egypt and trek through the desert. Changing that one keystone habit of smoking allowed her to change many other habits as well, but what allowed her to stop smoking in the first place? Nicotine is often claimed to be as addictive as heroin, so it’s not like quitting that was the “easy” part.
When our lives are thrown into chaos, the stress and uncertainty allows us to break and form new habits much more easily than when we’re settled into our routines. Sure, thinking about these moments as opportunities can add more stress onto already-tense situations, but done correctly, planning for the creation of new habits can bring comfort and normalcy to a rough time in your life, while creating positive things to focus on.
Our family has made three big (cross-country or international) moves over the last three years, and there’s another one looming on the horizon. Every time we’ve moved, we’ve used it as an opportunity: when we came to Denmark, I signed up for Danish lessons to help give structure to my week. My fiancee started going to the gym for the first time. Our eating habits changed, as well— we don’t keep red meat in the house, and we ate a LOT of cauliflower (until I begged her to stop making it so often).
Some of my most successful clients started working with me right after a breakup or divorce: finding something active and positive to fill their newfound time is also a great way to keep moving forward after heartbreak and help deal with depression. (I know that there have been weeks when the only time I’ve left the house was to go to the gym.) Routines have power, even when they’re new.
In the Rider-Waite tarot, there is a card called Death. In popular culture, you see fortune-tellers reveal this card to foreshadow something terrible happening to the protagonist; but in reality, this card has nothing to do with actually dying. It signifies a cycle coming to a close, and a period of personal transformation.
It's easy to think of ourselves as a fixed person, incapable of change. The truth is, while it's difficult, it's not impossible. It can be done, if you know the right time to do it.
How will you use the opportunities that life gives you?
- Habit For Self Improvement
- How I Learned Danish, and My Tips For Learning A New Language
- Motivation Isn't A Willpower Stat
- How The Hell Am I In Shape?
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