Habits are practiced in days, weeks, and months. We aim to form habits such as, write one-hundred words a day, call a loved one weekly, or read one book a month. I love creating habits like these, but have you considered adding yearly habits? Something special that you only do once a year?
Yearly habits uniquely reinforce other habits we’re working on because they’re easy to do, simple to schedule, and fun to look forward to. There is a positive, psychological side effect that’s comes with them.
Yearly habits are not the same as a tradition or holiday though, because they actually challenge you to do something that’s not easy. Our family has many Christmas traditions. We exchange pajamas on Christmas Eve, bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and visit family members on Christmas day. These are not yearly habits although they happen yearly. The reason is because they’re not challenging and don’t reinforce current habits I’m working on.
However, yearly habits can be tied to holidays or seasons though. For example, the Christian season of Lent has become an opportunity for me to practice a yearly habit. The Lenten season focuses on one spiritual discipline – fasting. It’s roots are in the wilderness and it’s a retelling of Jesus’ epic forty day fast. Lent is a yearly habit for me that reinforces my weekly fasting habit that I’m forging.
One of my problem is saying no to food. For example, I struggle to eat a normal amount of chips and salsa. It’s embarrassing, but I can’t stop. So instead of trying to stop, I’m training myself to fast – every week on Tuesday.
When Lent rolls around each year, it provides the space and environment for some additional fasting, which reinforces my weekly fasting habit. During Lent 2015, I fasted non-paleo (bread, dairy, etc) food for 40 days. It was a way of jump starting my weekly habit and got me one step closer to saying ‘no’ to chips and salsa.
Seasons and holidays are good places to add yearly habits because they’re already etched into your calendar. Like a memorable holiday, yearly habits can become markers for where we’ve been, and guides for where we’re going. When a yearly habit hits the calendar each year, it’s encouraging to measure the progress year over year.
That’s what’s nice about yearly habits, they provide fresh opportunities to smell the roses. But it’s not all backwards looking, they push us into the future, by giving shape to the new habits we want to create, or by recalibrating and reinforcing the habits we’re working on.
What about you? What are some of your favorite times of the year? Could you attach a yearly habit to it? Think about it. It could be extra fuel you need for growth.