Starting with a healthy mindset is all-important when you want to effect positive change. Once you commit to the idea that it is not too late to learn something new, that an old dog can actually learn a new trick, you are on your way to having new life-affirming habits. To develop any new habit, there are only three things to put in place and ‘Voila!’ You can have any new habit you’ve been wanting to have. 

Only three? Most of us can work with that, so I’ll start with a short story illustrating the way these three keys work. When I first moved to Florida several years ago, I stayed in my friend’s guest house a few weeks. It’s a little house right by the side of her home. Her dear husband, so tolerant, came over to show me how to operate the TV, where to park, and when and how to take out the trash. The lesson on trash took half an hour—this man has a system

There are not two, not three, but five different bins for discards, each one a different color. 

Being a grateful guest, I tried to pay close attention and I tried at all times to follow the rules, to remember to separate the waste, paper, glass, aluminum, plastic, plastic bags and donation items properly. I tried, and I succeeded, in developing the habit of proper recycling.

Compelled to this day, years later, I will fish a tuna can right out of the trash, rinse it, and walk out through the garage and plunk it into the blue recycle bin. I might even do it at your house! 

You see, I really do have this new habit, one I did NOT have before. An old dog learned a new trick! And, as I stated above, there are only three keys to Success in developing a new habit:   

  1. Be clear on exactly what to do. I was Trained. I knew what I needed to do.
  2. I was Accountable. I knew my friend’s husband came along behind me and corrected any category errors. I watched in horror one time as I saw him retrieve a Styrofoam cup I had stupidly put in with newspapers!  (I was lucky he didn’t kick me out of the guest house.)
  3. I had built-in Rewards. I got to stay. I also had the satisfaction of doing the task right, and on time, each week. I could even tell I was getting better at it as time went on. And especially when I saw the big trucks come and take everything away, I felt like a part of a worthwhile effort. I was saving the Earth! 

Let’s see…   Success:  Training – Accountability – Rewards

I became a STAR

You can be a STAR too! 

Think of one habit you would really like to have in place, something that the consistent practice of would mean a higher quality of life for you personally. Using the STAR keys, write some small, doable action steps for each of the four keys. 

Show yourself it’s not too late to learn a new trick. It’s the perfect time to start acting like the star of your own life. For success, just remember to make sure you are confident enough about what to do, or get any training you need. Then, design a way to be held accountable until the new habit becomes as automatic as brushing your teeth, and build in rewards for milestones along your way. Any new habit can be yours. 

Attribution: This article is adapted from my book, The Kaizen Method to Living a Healthy Lifestyle (2020), Suncoast Digital Press, Inc.

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