What Really Gets us to Act?

Spring is here in the Southern hemisphere, which means we are the start of the season traditionally associated with fresh starts and bright new intentions. As such a brief post about habits is fairly well-suited to this time of year.

I believe in Changing our Habits One Small and Repeated Step at a Time

I fervently believe that tiny shifts can turn into sizable transformations over the long term. In fact, it has been my experience that this is exactly the case.

A big inspiration for me has been Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. Inspired by him, I wrote a blog post about the way of less. You can read it here.

My life is quite different from 2 years ago, although I have made no major changes or bold moves. For example, I now find that I have a regular and easy habit of:

  • Drinking at lease one glass of water. This was so hard for me.
  • Meditating.
  • Journalling.
  • Exercising –
    • whether a run,
    • a pilates class,
    • a zoom yoga class,
    • my self-practise biokinetics exercises,
    • or simply walking the dogs every evening.
  • Building work around a brand I enjoy and believe in.
  • Connecting with a couple of friends each day, and
  • Always aiming to be present for my family.

Why Did I want To Make Changes

Like many people, each of these habits I began with the intention for an improved quality of life.

Each one needed a dose of willpower to set them in motion. After a few weeks, sometimes months, they had become habits, which means I could stop working hard at getting them done.

In fact, on the days I do not meditate, I now feel like something is missing, and if I stop for an extended period, I notice my quality of life taking a dip all over. I get more impatient, less positive, more anxious, and am less able to handle life’s challenges.

That said, none of these habits is set in stone. I take shortcuts and drop them and restart them and feel bad about myself, and feel good about them.

Simply put, I am a standard-issue lass continually taking steps to improve the quality of my life by building simple habits, simply.

So what is the Real Motivation that Gets us to Act?

I have signed up for challenge after challenge, in Facebook groups and email courses and WhatsApp groups, because I am someone who NEEDS external accountability to show up and do some work.

For me, accountability works. It makes me act. But what really motivates me to get into habit change action, is shame.

Recently I learned that accountability is really linked to shame, and shame is attached to our fear of being kicked out of the community, which many many years ago meant certain death. A dramatic and startlingly simple realisation. Survival motivates us to change.

Incidentally, according to a podcast I was listening to, Tony Robbins says that our 2 main fears are:

  1. not being good enough
  2. not being loved

I would guess that these are also linked to a basic desire for our own survival. Which explains why we feel these things so strongly at certain times!

So couple our fears with our best intentions, and we have a species who have a desire to improve and get better at living.

Spring blossoms

Action – Habit changes

Over the years I have taken part in a lot of challenges.

  • I have decluttered my house room by room – thanks to Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist.
  • I have decluttered my home in timed bursts.
  • I have decluttered my clothes, and my paperwork, and the children’s artwork (ssh).
  • I have dressed with 30 items for 3 months – thanks Courtney Carver of Project 333.
  • I have been on women’s business challenges.
  • Instagram reels challenges.
  • Facebook community group challenges.
  • I have taken part in video challenges.
  • And habit change challenges – thanks to Leo Babauta at Zen Habits.
  • I have taken part in 30-day minimalism challenges – from the Minimalists (I didn’t complete it!)
  • Meditation challenges.
  • Even happiness challenges.

As I wrote above, I have signed up for challenge after challenge, because I am someone who NEEDS external accountability to show up and do some work, on repeat, to change aspects of my life.

Possibly I need external pressure because I am a people pleaser. Possibly I need the external pressure because my own motivation for my own reasons just doesn’t cut it for me.

Having taken Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz, I came out as an Obliger, which she sums up as:

“I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.” This explains my need for external accountability. Depending on your make-up you might not need it as much as me, but it does seem to work for many of us.

Taking Small Bites

I love challenges and I see the real and practical value in their ability to help us change our behaviour by holding us accountable.

I’ve learned it’s because building discipline takes time. It is a muscle we need to train little by little. Progress is usually made out of small things done on repeat.

Hannah Brencher – The 15-Minute Rule

It doesn’t need to happen every single day. It’s not about getting the 15-minutes down perfectly. It’s about deciding to show up and put something that matters at the forefront for just a moment in your day.

Hannah Brencher – The 15-Minute Rule

Hannah Bencher suggests setting a timer for 15 minutes to make some, a little progress.

colourful Spring blossoms

Motivation – Fear of Premature Death

Recently I realised that accountability works because of our abhorrence of shame.

And shame is something we ALL know! Brené Brown has educated many of us on shame.

Why I wondered, is shame so terrible for us, that it can make us change our habitual behaviour?

Turns out it is because it makes us feel less than and we fear that because of this lack, we may be separated from the herd. We fear that it could lead to our becoming an outcast. We could be kicked out of our safe community and into the wilderness.

And evolution-wise – becoming an outcast in the wilderness, meant certain death.

So it is our fear of death that drives us to make the changes we wanted to make in the first place.

A mouthful, a headful, and also a well-known fact.

Spring blossoms all alone

As every blog post should end with a call to action, this is yours.

What areas in your life would you like to improve on?

Is it your health, your wealth, your self, or your social life?

Is it something to increase or decrease?

Take a moment to consider your answers, and know that small shifts in behaviour really can make for large shifts in life.

For more about living a simple quality life, have a look at our Instagram page at asimplebeautifullifesa.