If you really want to “create happy” in your life, then it’s going to take a little reinvention. See, you’ve been doing things a certain way for a while—a certain way that has brought you to where you are now. You have habits that, on a daily basis, either take you closer or farther away from where it is you want to go. And if you’re feeling unsettled about your life, or just want to be happier, you’ll have to create new habits to help you reinvent yourself so you can start living a happier life.
But what exactly does it mean to reinvent yourself? And how can you reinvent yourself using new habits?
What it means to reinvent yourself
The idea of “reinventing” yourself can sound a little drastic. But reinventing yourself is less about changing who you are, and more about changing how you live your life and how you see the world (and yourself). You’re still you—you’re just the best version of you. You’re more like the “you” that you really want to be, which is to say, the “you” that you were always meant to be.
Reinvention isn’t an overnight transformation, or a singular one. Rather, reinventing yourself requires you to change multiple habits over time, shaping yourself into a better, happier person. It is at the very heart of “creating happy,” because it turns you into the type of person that is capable of creating happy for themselves.
How to reinvent yourself using new habits
I keep coming back to habits in this discussion for one simple reason: what you do every day (aka the habits you have) dictates how you live your life.
As you develop and strengthen new habits, you’ll start to change the direction of your life. And if you choose your habits deliberately, then you can use them to reinvent yourself and create the life that you want to live.
How exactly can you design and develop habits that will help you reinvent yourself and “create happy” in your life?
Pinpoint what’s wrong
The real power in reinventing yourself comes when you can identify the specific things that you struggle with, and then develop habits that help you course correct. There are habits that seem universally good—things like exercising regularly and getting enough sleep—but if those aren’t the things that could help you most, or that could help you get and stay on the path that you need to be on, then those aren’t the habits you should focus on.
If you really want to zero in on how to reinvent yourself, you need to become self-aware. You need to acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses, and accept your imperfections. You need to be honest with yourself about the habits you have that are holding you back.
This level of honesty can be hard, but it’s crucial if you’re going to create meaningful change in your life. Don’t judge yourself. Accept your past mistakes. Acknowledge that some of the habits that have guided your life have actually hurt you more than they’ve helped you. Resolve to do better.
As you’re trying to pinpoint what’s wrong, questions like these might help:
- What do I do every day that I know doesn’t serve me or my goals?
- What do I do every day that I feel guilt or shame about?
- How have my daily actions shaped my life? Am I proud of that, or not?
- What do I really want, and do I have any habits that are directly leading me in that direction?
Design habits that will help you the most
Once you know what’s wrong, or what habits are keeping you from living the life you want to live, then it’s time to start designing some habits that will help you reinvent yourself.
Take a problem that you came up with, and create a habit specifically designed to counteract it.
|If you have a bad habit of…||You might design a new habit of…|
|Negative self talk||Catching, controlling, and designing your thoughts|
|Giving up when things get hard||Seeing challenges as opportunities|
|Eating junk food late at night||Brushing your teeth right after dinner to discourage you from eating anything else|
|Oversleeping||Keeping your alarm clock out of arm’s reach so you have to get up to turn it off|
|Bottling up your feelings||Journaling for 5 minutes a day|
The point is to use the information you gathered in step 1 to design a habit that will specifically address the problem you need to work on.
Fine-tune your habit(s)
Sometimes, when we try to start something new, we give it a day or two and realize that for whatever reason, it’s not going to work. This can be really discouraging, and might even make you feel like giving up.
That’s why I suggest that whenever you’re starting to implement a new habit, you expect the first week or so to be a period of fine tuning. Commit this week to figuring out how your new habit can realistically and seamlessly fit into your life.
Let’s say you want to develop the habit of drinking a gallon of water a day. Maybe at first, you try drinking a couple glasses of water with each meal, but soon realize that you really enjoy your coffee in the morning, or your soda with your lunch. In that case, fine tuning would involve choosing to drink more water at dinner. Or, maybe you discover that you can’t drink water right before bed, but you can drink a lot first thing in the morning, and it’s easier to remember if you keep a water bottle on your nightstand.
You aren’t setting these habits for short-term benefit, but for long-term change. You’re using new habits to reinvent yourself. Fine-tuning your habits in this way is going to set you up for success in the long run. Give yourself a little time to figure out exactly how a habit can fit into your daily life in a way that makes it comfortable and easy for you. The easier you make it, the longer you’ll stick with it.
Make it a habit
Now that you’ve carefully designed the habits that will help you the most, it’s time to start walking the walk. The only way to make something a habit is to do it—over and over again.
Opinions vary widely on how long it takes for something to become a “habit.” (FYI, the best current estimate is about 66 days.) But in reality, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. (Yeah, that’s a pretty big range.)
The length of time it takes for something to become a habit can vary depending on the person and on the habit. The important thing is to be patient with yourself and realize that long-term change requires constant effort over time.
Here are some tips to help you out as you try to turn your new behavior into a habit.
Remind yourself of your commitment
For some people, the hardest part of developing a new habit is simply remembering to do it. Set reminders for yourself, whether you write it on a sticky note you put on a mirror, or set regular alarms on your phone. Any system you can put into place that will remind you of what you’re trying to do will help you stick with it.
Get outside support
Some people find it easier to develop a habit if they have an accountability partner, someone who is checking in on their progress, or someone trying to adopt the habit right along with them. If you think this might help you, find someone who can play this role for you. Having a cheerleader can go a long way when you’re trying to create positive change.
Find your “tendency”
Gretchen Rubin established a framework called “The Four Tendencies,” which is all about how and why people develop certain habits or behaviors. The tendencies center around whether or not a person regularly meets outer and/or inner expectations.
Outer expectations are what other people expect of us: the deadline your boss sets, the errand your friend asks you to run, etc. Inner expectations are what we expect of ourselves: standards we want to live up to, goals we set for ourselves, etc.
By recognizing which tendency you follow, you can learn how to set expectations for yourself that you’re more likely to follow through on. Find your tendency by taking the quiz, here.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress is always helpful as you’re trying to develop a new habit. It allows you to see how far you’ve come, to celebrate your progress, and to motivate yourself to keep going. Tracking your progress will look different depending on your goal. For example, you might:
- Weigh yourself every day
- Cross a day off the calendar every day you drink enough water
- Add up the number of hours you’re sleeping
- Keep a tally of the number of harmful thoughts you recognize and reject
To take this even further, set milestones for yourself and celebrate when you reach them. Reward yourself for your accomplishment (though not with something that undoes your new habit!).
Reassess and start over
After you feel like you’ve developed a new habit, step back and take a look at how it’s changed your life. Applaud yourself for the effort you applied to making this change. Realize that you’re capable of following this process over and over again, until you reinvent yourself through new habits that you’ve implemented one by one.
Then start over. Find a new problem, design a new solution, and develop the next habit that’s going to help you create a happier life.
Reinventing yourself using new habits is within your power. Remember: you are already living with habits that are pushing you in a direction. Is it the right direction? Are those habits designed intentionally? If not, take charge. Design your thoughts, your habits, and your life. Reinvent yourself, and start living life as the “you” you want to be.
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