Have you ever made a mistake that caused you to start breaking bad habits?
We all have bad habits we’d love to break, but seldom do we get around to it until something makes us change.
When things are going well, it’s easy to stick to your habits without questioning what you are doing. When you screw up and have to fix it, you have to learn new ways of doing things, which is a great opportunity to fix your bad habit.
Making mistakes helps in two ways. First, you look at the problem in new way. You move away from acting out of habit and you question your assumptions about what exactly you were accomplishing with your old approach.
Secondly, you reexamine your resources. Look to the things you have to solve the problem.
The Tale of the Bad Bags
We use a lot of disposable products in our house. Heck, last year when we did our no spend month, Jon put paper plates second on the list of things he missed having around the house.
Paper plates, paper towels, plastic forks, plastic bags...I know they are all expensive substitutes for permanent and ecologically-friendly products. Still, we use them because they are easy and functional.
Even when Little Bit went to her outdoor super-ecologically focused preschool, she was the only kid bringing lunch and snacks in plastic bags. They kept her food fresh and they were easy to pack in her lunchbox.
Plastic bags cost money, though, so a couple of months ago when I needed a new box, I bought 150 foldover sandwich bags instead of the 40 sealing ones for the same price.
Big mistake. Yeah, the sealing bags seal. The foldover kind? Not so much. All of a sudden, Little Bit came home with loose pretzels and cereal in her backpack and strawberries staining her lunchbox. She also began complaining that her snacks had gone stale. It didn’t take long to realize that those foldover bags didn’t work very well for us.
We needed a better solution.
I could buy new bags and toss the old ones, but that offended my (limited and contradictory) frugal sensibilities. I tried using rubber bands and chip clips to seal the bags better, but the clips and bands inevitably fell off and my picky eater still complained about stale food that hadn’t been stale 4 hours earlier.
So I sorted through my stash of plastic tubs and found a few takeout Chinese soup and sauce containers that would easily fit in Little Bit’s lunchbox. Instead of plastic bags, i used the takeout containers for cheese and crackers, fruit, pretzels and everything else.
There were a few hangups at first. For instance, Little Bit asked why I’d sent her onion cream cheese for lunch one afternoon. I laughed and showed her the sliced plum that lay in the container. Since then I’ve either used a clear container or made a point to tell her what was in her lunchbox.
Last week, I finally used the last of the crappy sandwich bags, and bought some of the better ones. I’m not using them nearly as often, though. For the most part, the little washable containers work better. The food doesn’t get mashed or crumbled bumping around in Little Bit’s backpack as much, and I like not generating quite as much trash.
I would never have switched my habits, though, if I hadn’t made a mistake and bought the wrong bags.
So What Does a $2.00 Mistake Teach?
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about a purchase so small and insignificant. After all, I spent at most $2.00 on generic plastic sandwich bags each month. Does it really matter than I’m using fewer of them?
But I knew using the disposable stuff as often as I was using it was a bad habit i wanted to break. Using disposable bags hurts the environment by generating more trash. It wastes money.
I’m not proud of our plastic bag habit, sot I am grateful to find a different approach to food storage and transportation that seems to be working just as well. It just took a shake up to get me breaking this bad habit.
It’s not the first time I’ve found myself forced into breaking bad habits. In my 20’s, having my credit cards cancelled led to much better spending and saving habits. Losing my job last year eventually led to spend tracking and budgeting. Avoiding Jon’s
nagging reminders means I no longer swear like a sailor
But big changes don’t have to come from outside. You can also shake things up yourself. Going on our spending freeze last year taught me a lot about why i spend, and how I could more effectively live within our budget.
Now it’s just time to change a few more things.
So what bad habits remain?
I often leave things until later, only to find that I don’t get them done or scramble at the end. What’s not working? What I’m doing. My current practices lead to lack of exercise, too much convenience food, and less productivity than I might like.
What resource haven’t I used to tackle it? A task-oriented focus.. I can be really productive when focused, but I’ve lacked focus. I just kind of drift from task to task.
New Approach: The to do list. Okay, it’s hardly novel. Lots of people use them. Also, since I do well with routine, I need to shake mine up a bit. I’m using the times I’m most able to accomplish things (mornings) to accomplish tasks that don’t need a lot of focus. I need to prioritize exercise earlier in the day and move my blog scanning to either early morning (while I’m drinking coffee) or later afternoon.
Too Much Mindless Internet
Two days ago, I decided I’d try to avoid web surfing, facebooking and phone games after 6 pm. I’m finding those activities are sucking time and preventing me from interacting as well with my family as much as I should.
I don’t mind mindful internet and productive uses. Working on this blog or reading and commenting on other blogs is useful, checking out the latest celebrity gossip is not. Playing video games with Little Bit on a game system also qualifies as legit and interactive.
I just don’t need to be hunched over my phone screen for an hour or so playing Word Hero.
I failed in my mindless internet ban two days ago, in part because I kept the phone beside me. Yesterday, I grabbed my knitting and things seemed to go better. The best thing I can probably do though, is go plug my phone in during the evening so it’s no where near me. Today, that’s the plan.
Breaking Two Bad Habits
I’m not saying those are my only two bad habits. i have several more, but these two seem to be the root of a lot of related issues. I’m not accomplishing what I want to accomplish, and need to do a better job of prioritizing and not wasting time on things that don’t add a lot of value to my life.
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, so whenever opportunities come to get rid of them, you should take them.
Have you every made a mistake that led you to shed some behaviors or practices you didn’t like? What’s your best method for breaking bad habits?