Of course changing habits is hard! There are a million books written on the subject. I've probably read at least 20 of them over the past 10 years. I like the books. They give me hope that things can change. They make it seem possible.
But, merely reading the books doesn't help.
The only way to make change is to practice.
So, I devised
a system to help me keep track of my progress. But this system is a
little different, because it sits in front of me everyday on my coffee
table as a reminder. A physical 3-dimensional reminder that I am on a
path to change. It looks like this. . .
Yes, bowls filled with stones!
Here is the premise: I started with 44 stones in my Growth Bowl. This visually represents the practice I need to accomplish to make the changes I want to make. When I practice good behaviors I transfer a stone from the Growth Bowl to the Success Bowl*.
In my case, I have chosen 3 ways to earn a stone.
1. I can eat at home the whole day to save money and make healthier choices.
2. I can go to the gym for cardio.
3. I can take a walk around the High Road (the 1 1/2 mile loop around the Brandeis Bardin Campus where I live).
But! The stones can go both ways! If I exhibit less healthy behaviors, I have to return a stone to the Growth Bowl (reminding me I have more practice to do). However, the key is not to punish myself if I make a poor choice, but to recognize that my choices, both healthy and unhealthy, have a cumulative effect, and that I am looking for the overall success.
I "lose" a stone a few ways:
1. I eat out more than 1x a day. (3 meals out = 2 stones!)
2. I eat a gluttonous amount. (usually because I eat while I'm tired or stressed out)
3. I eat more than one sweet a day.
For me this practice is all about moderation and the visual representation that I am making more healthy choices than unhealthy ones. The result of course gives me confidence that I can make changes and the changes make me feel good.
The best lesson is the act of taking a moment to pause and think before I make a decision. Do I really want to spend money eating out? Do I really want that second brownie? Will taking a walk before bed reduce my stress level? Of course, I know the answer, but this holds me accountable to my value set.
Earning stones is my way of practicing awareness in my life and learning to be mindful of how I want to exist in the world. My stones have to do with living a healthy lifestyle in the areas where I think I need growth, but this practices could be done with any behavior. My husband has his own set of stones (in white bowls) and doing it together is fun. Some days I earn more stones than he does and other days he earns more than I do. But, it encourages us both to stay awake and alert of our actions as we go through our days.
We also will gift each other a stone for exceptional behavior that is not on the list. For instance, if he helps a friend with yard work or I have a particularly productive dance rehearsal. This allows us to be flexible in our growth and see all aspects of our lives through the mindful lens.
Today I have earned 3 stones.
1. 20 min Yoga in the morning
2. Afternoon walk around the High Road
3. Eating only fresh foods at home!
*Note: I think it is key that the terminology of the bowls be positive on both sides. Growth gives me hope that I can grow to change. If I labeled it "Bad" I would likely abandon ship-- Just writing about it gives me a heavy heart. Think positive for lasting change!
Side note: Why 44 stones? Because we only had 88 on hand so we divided them equally.