Monday, September 10, 2012

How Seasonal Change Empowers Habit Change

Autumn forest creek foliage

I have to grab a sweater for my dawn walks. The birds are already in training for the long flight south. In my neck of the woods, acorns are falling so fast and furious I need a hard hat to go outside.Change is in the air and that makes this a good time for personal change.

The right habits are a positive thing. Habits are life's subroutines, executing sets of behaviors we engage in on a regular basis. Doing a set of tasks regularly , in a routine order, frees us from having to decide every few minutes what to do and how to do it. And since willpower is a limited resource, just like physical energy, our daily supply is better spent mastering new things. Having habits built into our day saves those willpower resources for dealing with unexpected roadblocks or the building of new skills.

We don't have to think about our habits. That's one of the reasons the bad habits we fall into--like that doughnut on our coffee break--are so hard to change.

 During the change of seasons, changing habits is habitual. We swap out shorts and tank tops for jeans and sweatshirts. The bowl of peaches on the kitchen table is now a bowl of apples. Our habitual boundaries are more malleable during a seasonal change, which makes it a great time to sneak in a few new habits.

Don't go crazy. Like I said, we only get so much willpower to spend each day and we want to keep the number of changes to a manageable level. I wouldn't do more than three changes, and the fewer the better.

I'm sticking with three autumn resolutions:

 1) Switching to a plant-based, whole food diet.

 2) Training for a 5k road race

3) Reigning in my free-spirited muse and turning my writing into an 8-hour-a-day job. No more. No less.

That may seem like a tall order. I'm already a vegetarian so giving up dairy and gluten based products are minor tweaks to a diet that is already headed in that direction.

I'm already a runner, but recently had fallen out of the habit of consistent training.

And last, I had let my writing life swallow up the rest of my life which had me at the computer 12-16 hours a day and too burnt out to make good progress.

I've been assembling the resources I need to be successful in my new habits. If you've read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, you'll know how social groups both close friends and acquaintances can provide the push we need to successfully build new habits.

I've circled the wagons in the form of running friends and family who will joining me in training for the Autism 5k which we will all run together in honor of an autistic toddler in my family. With the power of a dedicated group and an inspiring goal, I have no doubt that we will all cross the finish line on that goal.

 For the dietary goal, I'm joining a group of fellow writers led by our Editor Grace Bradley. Grace said making these dietary  changes for three weeks changed her life. Just weaning myself away from dairy and gluten in the week preceding our group effort changed my life so much that I've accomplished the goal before starting the challenge. I'm excited to see how I will feel at the end.

 For the writing goal, I am relying on the support of all my sister @wisewenches here at the W3 blog and other close writing friends who have been the inspiration for positive change in my writing life. Hat tip to: Kelly Jamieson, Brandi Evans, Madeline Iva, and Tibby Armstrong.

Have you got plans to let some old habits fall away and replace them with something new as the summer turns to autumn? Tell me about it in the comments.

Resources to help you fall into new habits:

Book: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Dietary Change: Forks Over Knives

Training Program: Couch to 5k

Build a daily Writing Habit:


  1. Good for you Nara - being Jewish, I'm approaching our new year which always felt to me more appropriate this time of year than in January but as a life-long rebel, I've found resolutions counter productive for me. Still I admire those who are able to meet goals and enjoyed this blog.

  2. Good for you, Nara! I can't say I want to share your journey in the diet, or the racing, but I admire your determination! The 750 site is intriguing. I'll be interested to see how it works for you...hope you'll report back! By the way, here in southeastern VA, nothing's falling from the trees yet, and I haven't worn a jacket (other than inside the office because of the air conditioning) since around May. :-) I love autumn. Enjoy!

  3. It's great to have goals. Love the photo and I love the Fall. There's something cathartic about the changing of this season.

  4. Best of luck to you, Nara. I know you'll do well. Always good to see someone making a commitment and I support you 100%. Happy Mabon!

  5. Nara, how great to hear of your goals. The changing of seasons is a perfect time for change and I'm glad you reminded me of that. I look forward to reading about your success!

  6. thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on my goals. I'll let you know how it goes :)