Shirts, ties, belts, shoes, pants, socks, suits for five men, young and otherwise. Check. Dresses, slips, leggings, shoes, hair accessories and jewelry for five girls, young and middle-aged. Check. Wedding clothes are packed. Rinse and repeat for wedding rehearsal clothes. Then get started on the blankets, pillows, utensils, appliances and more for staying in a church building for a few days. Finally, gather the towels, floaties, tents, tarps and swimsuits for a trip to the beach. Packing for a trip is always hectic, but multiply the people times ten plus add seven days, and you’ve got a formula for either efficiency or a nervous breakdown.
Packing is just part of the preparation for a trip. There are always things to take care of at the office and in the backyard before you leave. There are lists to check, people to consult and phone calls to make. The preparations can be frustrating or calming, but they are always necessary.
Whenever we set out to do something new, especially something that involves a journey, preparations can make or break our success. There are preparations that help us along the way, with more efficiency than frayed nerves. Let’s say you want to develop a new habit, like using a planner to organize your schedule and to-do’s. Here are a few items for your packing list for the journey to consistency with your new habit:
Decide. No “try,” no “hope.” You decide to begin, but then every day after that is another decision. Use the planner, check it often….or not….you decide. The new habit you want doesn’t begin accidentally. It’s usually the habits we don’t want that begin that way.
See. What are you seeing? Focus your vision on where you want to be, not where you are. Constantly bemoaning your current life management keeps you focused on where you are now. I’m not talking denial, just adjust your vision upwards and onwards. See yourself successfully using the planner to keep you on track with your time and to-do’s.
Begin. No more “next week” or “on the first of the month.” Don’t get so caught up in the planning to start that you feel a sense of emotional satisfaction when you didn’t really do anything yet. Getting lost in the details like finding the perfect planner is a good way to avoid actually using a planner.
Move forward. The way to do that is “keep moving forward.” When you’ve decided on a new habit, criticizing yourself for the old habit will keep you discouraged and focused—on the old habit. Don’t be mean to yourself or grieve over lost time or wish you’d started years ago. It’s amazing how fast you can get over something when you’re not focusing on it all the time.
Attach. Arrange your life so that the new habit is attached to something you already do consistently. If you always “get up, eat breakfast, start the coffee,” then that’s probably a good time to “check planner.” Decide on where the new habit fits best. Using a planner works well early in the day, with checkpoints through the day.
Trips don’t always go as planned, but successful travelers adapt and keep going. Missing a flight or having a flat tire doesn’t have to mean the trip is cancelled. You adapt and solve the problem and keep going so you get to where you want to go. New habits aren’t magically made overnight, but quitting and cancelling the effort doesn’t get you anywhere.
Sit down and think through (on paper) where you want to go, what new habit you want to ingrain in your life. Make your “packing list” of what will need to change or how the habit will fit into your days. Then start the trip. Sitting in the driveway revving up the engine doesn’t get you anywhere. The highway’s a callin’—gotta be movin’ on!