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Health & Habits - Guest Post by Joy Abad

Joy Abad
One of the fundamental aspects of JHCA's education is the formation of habits in our students. We focus on sixteen habits that, when developed, shape students into virtuous and conscientious young adults. In this post, guest author & JHCA mom Joy Abad discusses how everyone can use habit formation to their benefit, especially when trying to live out their New Years goals.
As we work our way into March, the newness of “New Year: New You” has almost completely faded away. Maybe you’re a goal setter, but those 2023 goals already need a little dusting off in your memory. Perhaps you like to pick a word to focus on for the year, but you can’t quite remember what that word was . . . “Hold on. I wrote it down somewhere. It was really good.”
 
I get it. That’s where the majority of us are right now, but don’t let those dusty, almost-forgotten goals be your justification for leaving them in the past and not thinking about them for the rest of the year. Let this post be your encouragement to rethink them in a way that will set you up for actual success.
 
For my family, many of our goals focus on health and wellness. For the sake of illustration, I’ll focus on goals related to this topic, but the principles for achieving your goals are consistent whether you are focusing on exercise, what you eat/don’t eat, how many books you want to read in 2023, or that pesky project around the house that you want to complete.
 
Let’s say your goal is to get outside and train for a half marathon. Great goal. We all know that movement can be difficult to prioritize with our sedentary lifestyles lived mostly behind a computer screen. We also know that getting outside is important for a myriad of reasons such as absorbing vitamin D from the sun (did you know that your body absorbs vitamin D primarily through your eyes and skin? Take those sunglasses off, and let your eyes absorb not just the vitamin D, but the colored light from the sun. This light calibrates your circadian rhythm to optimal function and powers up your mitochondria). Health benefits are great motivations for achieving goals, but motivation generally isn’t enough—hence why January’s goals are getting dusty here in March. So, then what?
 
This next step has been gaining popularity in the last few years, but it is relatively new to me—focus on changing your perspective. It’s time to intentionally shift your focus from accomplishing a goal to forming a new system.
 
Allow me to explain. The problem with focusing on a goal instead of creating a new system is that with a goal, there’s an end date. Once you’ve accomplished your goal, the chances of retreating back to the lifestyle that you wanted to escape (especially when it comes to health and fitness goals) is almost 100 percent. Once you run that half marathon, you will likely stop running and training. If your goal is to not consume processed sugar in January, you will likely go back to consuming sugar regularly once February 1 hits. (Did you know that consuming processed sugar actually slows down your immune system? No wonder we see an uptick in sickness in our kids after every sugar-filled holiday or birthday party!)
 
But what if you used your goals to develop a new system—a system that becomes a habit—and that habit becomes so second nature that it actually changes your identity? Instead of “my goal is to run a half marathon,” you run so often that you can call yourself a runner. Instead of “my goal is to eat no sugar in January,” 2023 is when your eating habits unmistakably become those of a healthy person. There’s a huge difference between setting a goal to eat healthy and when others automatically say about you, “Oh, she won’t eat that. She eats really healthy.”
 
I’m sure this is sounding familiar to some of you now—if you’ve read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, then you know I’m shamelessly stealing this information from him. Admittedly, the book has way more than I can cover in this one post, but I wanted to challenge you to start thinking about your goals differently—focus on developing new systems that could potentially change your identity.
 
The action step that I am inviting you to focus on is to start a habit that is so small (some might say atomic) that you can’t help but do it. If you want to assume the identity of a runner, then each morning, change your system so that you put on your running shoes first thing. That’s it. Just 1 degree of change. Once this change becomes part of your system, then you can add one more degree of change—putting on your running clothes too. One degree at a time. First shoes, then clothes, then jogging to the end of your driveway. Your new identify can’t help but naturally progress from that first step.
 
If your goal is to become a healthy person, then change one thing—one small change, one step that you will accomplish every day because it’d be ridiculous not to. Maybe that one change is to stop putting sweetened creamer in your coffee and switch to just cream. One percent better. Every day.
 
It sounds too simple, like it’s not enough to really make a difference, right? Yes, it sounds that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The science is all there.
 
So, what’s an atomic-sized habit that you’re going to put in place that turns your goals for 2023 into new systems that shape your identity?
 
If you follow through with this method, you can honestly look forward to 2024: New Year, (actual) NEW YOU.

Joy is the mom of three daughters in 1st, 7th, and 9th grade. She homeschools her eldest two daughters, works as a part-time executive assistant in her husbands audio/visual company, WAV, and is very active in her church's, Tribe, community. She loves to write, read, and enjoy hiking, skiing, and camping with her family—outdoor activity is a core value for them. She enjoys being involved with JHCA, as the school helps to expose her daughters to the full spectrum of truth and beauty that God created.
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