Creating New Habits: Step #2 – Identifying Your “Big Why”

From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (Sept 2012):

“Habits can be learned and unlearned.
It isn’t a quick fix. It involves a process and a
tremendous commitment… that has to be
motivated by a higher purpose.”
~ Steven Covey



I have a confession to make. Over the summer, the “habit energy” of procrastination got the best of me!

Then just last week, I received an email from someone who enjoyed reading my Harmony Habit Tips and was waiting for the next one on strengthening goals.

“Did I drop off your email list?” she asked, “Because I haven’t received any since May.”

“Really?!” I thought, “How could that be?” I was almost certain I’d written at least one in June.

“The Harmony Habit went on vacation,” was the silly excuse I offered; and this reader very politely replied that I deserved one.

Sure enough, over the last several months, the habit of writing regularly gave in to the gravity pull of the very thing I cautioned against in May – the “something else seems more pleasurable syndrome”! After missing my own deadline once, then twice, writing became less easy. Eventually, I stopped doing it altogether.

Many of us can relate to this when it comes to diet or exercise – even this reader said that her desire to be healthy, fit and conscious went right out the window when she was around chocolate! Yet this sort of thing can also happen when we’re aiming to practice a new leadership behavior, improve our communication skills or build greater competency in managing people – or our emotions. Something more pressing (or attractive) may grab our attention and distract us from our goal. If we lose focus long enough sometimes we can forget altogether what we intended to do in the first place!

This is NOT the way to strengthen a desired habit!

Thinking About GoalsAs mentioned in the last Harmony Habit tip, the first step to creating a new habit is about having the three elements of “knowledge, skill and desire” in place. Yet, very importantly, it also requires a willingness to delay short term gratification in pursuit of more important, longer term goals.

So, in the spirit of “walking the talk”, I posed the same question to myself that I asked others to ponder in May:
Was I willing to forego the short term pleasure of – let’s say taking a break – for the longer term goal of establishing a regular writing practice, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and hopefully being of service?

The answer was “Yes”!

Yet, it wasn’t until I heard from this individual, that I’d remembered the significance of the latter goal. Change is also motivated by a need for a higher purpose. Understanding the big “why” behind our goals – our dreams, hopes and expectations – is very important. That’s the second step to creating a new habit.

Finding a higher purpose, helps to motivate and strengthen the habits we wish to create. The inquiry from an appreciative reader reminded me about the “why” behind my initial desire to write: I wanted to express myself creatively, and I also wanted to be of service. That helped me get back on track.


This month’s practice:

September offers all of us a chance to get back on track! If you gave in to the gravity pull of “something else seems more pleasurable syndrome” over the summer months and did something less often – or stopped altogether – cut yourself some slack! Getting a handle on the “pain versus pleasure” dynamic takes practice and patience!

Remember: This is all about strengthening a new and desired habit.

First, ask yourself: Do I have all three elements in place – or do I need to acquire more knowledge, skill or desire?

Secondly, ask: Do I know my “big why?”

Finally, reflect on the following question and fill in the blanks:
Am I willing to forego the short term pleasure of ___________________ for the longer term goal of ___________________ and for the higher purpose of ___________________.

Sometimes an appreciative inquiry from the outside is all that’s needed to prompt the “why” behind your desire. Other times you may need to intentionally create a space where you can settle down, quiet your mind and contemplate some of the bigger reasons you want to change. Trust in the answers that emerge. They will strengthen your resolve.

Stay tuned: next week we’ll look at the third step to creating new habits.


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