Resolutions for Developing Positive Habits? It Starts with Inner Awareness

Jan 13, 2013

Another article posted online ( and here . . .

I’ll admit it – there have been many a January when I conducted an online search on something like “create positive habits” . . . only to find a wide variety of suggestions, best strategies or top ten tips that sounded promising, but in reality didn’t help lead me to much change. I’m motivated to share what has helped me break some old diehard habits, and develop new, positive ones.

Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone, “why did you do that?” s/he struggles to come up with an answer? The majority of the time, we could probably all answer with “ask my automatic pilot.” Simply put, habits are routine actions we perform, driven by our subconscious mind. We don’t know why, we just do, based mostly on the dents, events, beliefs, interpretations that all helped form patterns throughout our personal past.

Think about some of your less-than-desirable habits . . . are any of them based on things like:

  • self-perception (“I do/don’t deserve it”)
  • outside-perception (“this is how I wish others see me”)
  • others’ norms/expectations (“it must be done this way”)
  • perception of time (“I must know the future will look like this”)

These driving forces, or underlying convictions, are the basis of our habits. Revealing them, I believe, is key to better understanding why we do the things we do while on automatic pilot and changing these habits. It’s about realizing that we have choices, and choosing in a conscious manner.

I became aware of many of my underlying convictions when I was introduced to the Organic Scorecard (OSC), a tool developed by Transmind (English translation soon to be added). It cut right to the chase and helped reveal many of the driving forces behind my actions, including how some seem to clash with each other and cause me to feel stuck, unable to get to where I’d like to be. I learned about my inner:

  • emotional driving forces that give me energy/movement, but can lead to insecurities and other less-than-positive feelings
  • rational driving forces that provide stability/comfort, but can lead to inflexibility/stagnation
  • trusting driving forces that give me a sense of peace/relaxation, but can lead to an undesirable distancing

Based on a certain low score, I was asked a simple question, “Where/how do you draw inner strength and stability?” I was surprised to notice that I struggled to come up with an answer. This sank in more and more over time as I realized that since my immigration to the Netherlands, I hadn’t been exactly in contact with my own feelings and needs. I was focused so much on getting the children settled and so many other unstable factors that my own stability wasn’t in reach. This awareness of my lack of seeing choices helped motivate me tremendously to change my behavior.

I started with the advice given to me: mindfulness and meditation – taking time for myself, being still, coming in contact with whatever my underbelly might be trying to tell me. This helped me develop strategies that worked for me, many of which have become new habits, such as weekly yoga, weekly walks in the woods, more social dates.

I signed up for training in Nonviolent Communication, which is teaching me the art of empathy – in particular a relatively new concept for me, self-compassion. Making a habit out of this last strategy has been working miracles – in a nutshell, my life is becoming much lighter and more fun!

I don’t claim that forming new habits is an easy thing and wouldn’t tell anyone that it’s simply a matter of making new choices. However, I am convinced that new inner awareness and seeing choices is a critical first step. An awareness-raising diagnostic tool like the OSC and the coaching that accompanied it served as an amazing short-cut for me in developing positive habits. Of course, there are other ways to see choices, all of which involve looking deeper in the mirror, beneath behavior (what everyone can see) toward your convictions/beliefs (the stories you subconsciously tell yourself) that drive your habits, e.g.:

  • seeking out perspective (how do others see/do it?)
  • asking for feedback or reflection (from those you trust)
  • journaling your own observations about what’s driving your habits
  • undergoing a “360° evaluation” in the workplace (input from supervisor, colleagues, clients – the full circle)
  • therapy

On a final note, I encourage all to share your journey with others, via dialogue and exchange of experience. No one is alone in finding that their habits are hard to change, and we can all find support, solace, encouragement, even love through sharing. It was only when I consciously chose to try out this particular strategy on a regular basis that I found the courage to stay on my own path toward developing new, positive habits.

Cara Crisler is an American living in Haarlem with her Dutch partner and two children. She works as a coach with individuals and consultant for non-profits primarily in the Randstad region. She is a member of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council and abides by its Code of Ethics. For more information, see her website Crisler Coaching. Since receiving personal coaching by Transmind, Cara followed the full training and now coaches others using the Organic Scorecard.


Cara Crisler
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