Experts will tell you that when you suddenly find yourself without a job, you should still keep up the routines you had when you were employed: go to bed at a reasonable hour, get up and dressed as if you were going to work, and the like.
It’s good advice; we’ve offered it here on this site a few times ourselves. But there is another side of the argument: now is the perfect time to pick up a new GOOD habit. Think about it: this is the start of a new phase in your life. So why not start it off with a positive change?
It will take effort, no doubt: strip away the sugar coating, and the basic truth is that change takes work. We’re creatures of habit, and we already have habits to start with, so changing our behavior is always going to be a challenge. It takes more than just good intentions: it takes a plan.
So if your intent is to try to establish a good habit–like say, exercising on a regular basis–there are certain steps you need to take to make that goal a reality. For example:
- When you’re excited about an idea and have too much free time, there’s a tendency to create laundry lists of things you want to change. Doing so, however, is just setting yourself up for failure: it’s hard enough to make one change, let alone make all the changes on a list the size of a CVS receipt. Narrow your focus down to one alteration you want to make, and concentrate on that.
- One of the biggest struggles with making a change is that we try to “tack on” something new in our already full lives. That’s like trying to stick a part of the picture outside of the frame. So once you’ve decided what you want to do, start thinking in terms of what you’re not going to be doing in that time frame. You want to jog for an hour each morning? Great. But you need to plan now to be aware of what isn’t going to happen while you’re out on road.
- Despite the bad rap resolutions get every January, research has shown that change is best accomplished through making a resolution and sticking to it. To successfully create a new habit, your resolution must be SMART:
- Specific “Worry less” sounds nice, but it’s not really a resolution.
- Measurable There has to be some type of measurable metric.
- Rewarding At the end of the day, you have to know that the work is worth it.
- Trackable You have to be able to track your progress.
- It’s also helpful to make a commitment strategy. In other words, try investing more than just the outcome. Tell all your friends what you’re doing. Put money down. Find some way to keep yourself accountable. Instead of just exercising, join a group like CrossFit that will provide you with a built-in community: friends that always have your back … but who will also keep pushing you to reach your goals.
- The longer you stick with your new commitment, the more likely it is you’ll develop a habit that’s automated so you don’t have to think about. Once you hit that point, you’re not worried about self-discipline, there’s not a lot of active internal debate, you simply–to quote Nike–“Just do it.”
In most situations, this starts happening after about 3 months. That’s when you really start feeling like you’re really going to stick with it; it’s become part of your life.
Being able to make a change and stick with it can be a huge deal. You’re likely to feel more confident and in control–two things that your life may be lacking after being let go. Some studies even suggest it can make you a better friend, partner–even a better boss.
Of course it isn’t easy. No one said it was. We’re only saying that it’s worth the effort.