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True or False: Three Weeks to a New Habit?

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I have been doing My Happiness Project 2013 for better than three weeks now. Three weeks of focusing on anything – quit smoking, eating healthier, or not biting your nails – choose your vice that you’re trying to change and you should see a difference. Self-help experts all agree that the magical time frame when something changes into a better habit is 21 days. Three weeks.

How am I doing? Not too horrible. Not too great. I think I have the “Sleep Better” focus nailed. Just refocusing on when I have to get up and looking back to when that means I need to go to bed was a simple but effective way to develop new habits. Now if I could just do something about the things that prevent me from falling asleep faster or staying asleep. Many of those things are beyond my control. But I problem solve where I can – sometimes sleeping better means moving to the couch, or sneaking in a half hour nap. All I can do is make sure that I’m allotting time for sleep and making it a priority in my life, which I have successfully done these past 23 days. My X’s on my resolution chart are high in that category. Regardless, it has become a very healthy priority in my life. For that, I’m very happy.

Operation Organization is doing fairly well, too. There were some days where something I’d organized became unorganized. I live with four other people. None of whom are very organized. All I can do is be a good example for them and hope they take the clue. But each time I organize a drawer, a closet, a shelf in the garage (oh holy mother of all that is clutter our garage is obnoxious and makes me anxious every time I go out into it), I have a feeling of success, which breeds a moment of joy. Moment of joy is a good thing.

Invest in Art is doing fairly well, too. That’s an easy focus for me. In fact, today I get to take some of my work into a local gift shop for sale. They asked me! Not too shabby, eh? Now if I could just finally get the glass-cutting stuff done right, and really support my family whether its writing or Thrasher Studios work. Regardless, the extra half an hour I’m spending focusing every day on my art has allowed me to learn new things and realize that such an investment brings me returns. Who can’t smile at that?

Exercise Better is where it’s been really tough. I have the most zeroes on my resolution chart there. However, I have identified problems and hurdles – e.g., variety, weather, back trouble, low motivation –to that and am devising solutions. Sometimes solutions to life’s troubles are slower to present than the problems. Some problems I can’t change, but adapt to, like the weather. That requires special clothing, which I have none of right now. I don’t own a proper winter coat. I don’t own a proper rain coat or muck boots. And walking outdoors is my number one go-to exercise routine. It’s one I’ll easily stick to because my dog needs exercise and it’s my responsibility to make sure that happens. I do want variety and I’ve investigated new types of exercise (Tai Chi, alternative yoga, etc.) via DVDs. However, I need a DVD player in our bedroom so that I can actually exercise to those instructional discs with privacy, comfort and regularity. When the weather breaks I’ll be able to get on my bicycle again, too, which will also bring variety. My degenerative spinal disease is a double-edged sword. I have to exercise to make sure that it doesn’t get worse more quickly; but, exercising also makes my back trouble act up. Performing self care like taking my anti-inflammatory meds, doing my massage chair, and stretching are all things I worked on in 2012 to regularly perform. However, amp’ing up my exercise routine also means that the pain amps up and even preventive and maintenance routines hold little sway in mitigating for when my back wants to completely spasm and be inflamed to the point where I find it hard to breathe or be in one position too long. Four days of just trying to move normal really put a kink in my focus. But, it’s constantly on my radar for each and every day. That exercising is just like breathing or drinking my coffee. It’s a part of my day, much like writing. My day is off when I can’t even do something simple like spend 15 minutes in yoga poses. However, if I compare this month to say, November? I’m kicking ass in the exercise better. It’s all about progress, not perfection. That’s good.

Not on my resolution chart, but rather as a way my family could at least cursorily join in on the project, we created a “Good Things Jar.” This is a big mason jar that when good things happen, we put a small note in. On Dec. 31, 2013 we’ll read them aloud to each other to relive those small moments of joy. In just 23 days, our jar has been filling up. I might have to find a bigger one by mid-year.

Given that the last two weeks have been fraught with personal challenges both as an individual and as a parent, any progress is good progress, whether it’s a new positive habit or not. I credit much to the loosely-knit group of neighbors, acquaintances and friends who decided to do this project along side. I hope they are finding more moments of joy, too, as clearly I have.

It is clear, doing this three-week check-in that regardless of daily ebbs and flows of success, new habits are developing. I think the three-week logic is fairly accurate. I’m looking forward to next month’s resolution challenges and more joy. How are you doing on your resolutions? Are you doing a happiness project? How’s it going? What challenges are you finding that inhibit your ability to be successful at your goals? Your comments help bring me more joy, so please feel free to comment away.


Published inHappiness Project


  1. Kathleen Gabriel Kathleen Gabriel

    Sounds like you’re doing really well in several areas. I’ve always read that it’s too hard to change more than one thing at a time, but it sounds like you’ve picked a combination that’s working. Time is a problem — in order to spend more time at one thing, you have to spend less time at something else. So that might be something to look at. I love it that you’re doing more art.
    As far as my own resolutions, I am writing every day now, even if it’s only morning pages and wandering-all-over-the-map writing, it’s writing. I haven’t done well with my going to bed earlier bit. I know that I don’t need to allow late night things that come up to prevent getting to bed, but I have this thing about feeling needed. People ask for help or ask me questions and it makes me feel all important and loved. I need to get over that.
    I’m glad you’re getting happier, and I wish your back the best.

    • All writing is writing. I’m all for that. Morning pages have a great way to inspire us for other things, too — writing and otherwise. You will note that most of my goals — at least one, if not two, of them are what I would term, “permission” to do what I want (art, et al). Sometimes giving ourselves to live the way we want is exactly what we need to do in order to get from point A to B. Being loved and feeling needed is a human condition. You’re not alone there. The key is to gauge what is genuine and where we’re applying more importance to the requests. Yeah?

  2. Jamie Jamie

    I am doing okay with my resolutions in some respects, but poorly in others.

    I am home sick today, and will work on my school application. I hope to finish it this afternoon, except for finalizing my phone references. I want to have my application finished Sunday.

    Until I started thinking about it the other day, I never realized that my mom’s support meant so much to me during the application process. The academic advisors said to talk to family whole compiling the application, because they’ve known you the longest, and may remember things you have forgotten, and so family is a wonderful resource. And yet, everytime I mention it to my mom she changes the subject. It is weird. She will usually talk about anything and everything.

    As for health, while my lower back is back up to scratch, and I no longer have to see the chiropractor, I have a few hoops to jump through for acupuncture. Until I can get a bloodwork order for a CBC, and a copy of the results, the acu doctor can’t come up with a proper treatment plan. The bank might kick through on a line of credit so I can afford the treatments though.

    Working toward my belay test is on hold until I feel better. Luckily, management at work is understanding – kind of.

    As for trying to get my apartment more tidy, my kitchen and living room are in better shape than usual. I think my resolution specified the bedroom and den, but I am going to be flexible here. Any progress is better than none.

    My happiness jar is in pretty good shape, too. I may have to start a second one.

    I think one of my Feb resolutions will include time management. *That* came up during my performance review at work last week.

    • Sounds like you’re making progress, too. That’s really good. So glad to hear the back is improving. Maintenance on health issues is so important. I wonder what your mom’s seeming hesitation is? When you said belay test, I’m thinking like rock climbing. What does it really mean? Outward tidiness — regardless of where is a good thing. Yay! for happiness jars. And yes, I may be modifying my goals for next month, too — especially given that February is so short! Anyone else feel pressure that it’s so short?

  3. Jamie Jamie

    I think my mom’s hesitation stems from worrying about where I will get the money to go to school if I get into the program. My first degree isn’t fully paid off yet.

    The science museum I work at has a 60-foot climbing wall, so you are right. Belayers are the ones at the opposite end of the rope to the climber. Have you tried it before?

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