Sunday, November 30, 2014

One little habit, big rewards

The tasks (projects) shown above have no end, the result of bad habits, unconscious choices. 
Time for a change.

Marla Cilley, AKA FlyLady, started with a shiny sink. Keeping her sink shiny led her into more habits that help her (and thousands of people who read her blog) easily maintain a house she is proud to invite people into.

I subscribed to a couple of years ago and started some of the habits she proposes. My sink is shiny (most of the time), my bed is (usually) made first thing in the morning, and I’m “dressed to shoes” first thing. These are good habits to maintain. I feel good about my kitchen, bedroom, and person. These habits help me maintain a certain level of tidiness; I’m “company ready” (well, almost). However, the rest of Marla’s daily habits and routines are still not habitual for me. What’s missing?

It turns out that there are levels of habit, or Choice as Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance) calls it. According to Fritz, there are three types of Choice: Fundamental Choice, Primary Choice, and Secondary Choice. If you haven’t made your Fundamental or Primary Choices, how can you stick to the Secondary (or daily) Choices?

A fundamental Choice is something like “I choose to be the creative force in my own life,” or “I choose to live” (as opposed to choosing to die), or “I choose to make it EASY” (that’s my big one). Fundamental Choices cover the way you want to live—your core values. Everything you do flows from your Fundamental Choices, whether you've made these choices consciously or not. To get the life you want, it’s best to choose consciously.

Notice that we’re making Choices here—not just wishing or wanting something, but choosing to make it happen.

A Primary Choice is a certain aspect of how you want to live, such as “I choose to get in shape and be really healthy,” or “I choose to write a blog on becoming the person I want to be,” or “I choose to maintain a tidy house.” Primary Choices cover large aspects of your life and require daily action (Secondary Choices or habits).

A Secondary Choice is a daily choice. “Right now, I choose to get up and go to the gym, instead of turning over to go back to sleep.” “Today, I choose to go to my office and write for X hours, instead of watching TV or playing Solitaire or whatever.” “I choose to wipe down the kitchen counters after breakfast, instead of leaving things out for ‘later’.”  The Secondary Choice is where daily routines come in. Once these Choices become habit, you no longer have to think about making choices every day, you just do the actions.

Right now, for me, a Primary Choice is to get my house (and life) organized (and de-cluttered). “I choose to live in a clutter-free, organized, and pleasing environment.”

Aside from getting the house de-cluttered, I have to build habits for keeping the house de-cluttered. Enter an important Secondary Choice: “I choose to put all my tools and supplies away when I’m finished with a task.” This one is HUGE for me. I’ve spent a rather long life flitting from one project to another without putting away anything from the previous project. Utter chaos. Even after binges of de-cluttering and organizing, I revert to my old habits. No more.

I've started doing what I call “End of Task” (idea from Andrew Mellen in Unstuff your Life), or “Clear to Neutral” (Thanh Pham of Asian or “Reset to Zero.” Whenever I finish doing anything, I put away everything that was used in the doing. This seems like such a little habit, but it's hard to do. However, I'm working at it and it’s already reaping rewards. Even though I haven’t de-cluttered yet, I am no longer adding to the clutter lying around on all surfaces of my home; even though I haven’t found a home for every item yet, I am putting things away in logical places where I can find them. When this one little habit becomes second nature to me, it will help with one of my Fundamental Choices: “I choose for it to be EASY!”

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C Maxwell


  1. Loved this posting!! I had never actually thought of the choices we make as being an 'active' event. Mostly I think we all just go along, bemoaning the things we don't like about ourselves and reveling in the things we do like - never thinking that we have made choices along the way and those choices have become habits and in some cases that can mean that we're subverting the person we want to become. Its so easy to fall into habit and think nothing of it until it impinges on our life and the way we're living it. You're on a good track!

    1. Yes. What you mentioned is the "Reactive-Responsive Orientation", as Fritz calls it. Most of us live our lives just going along, bemoaning whatever happens to us. We're not taught to create what we want, to make active choices. The premise of his book is that people live within one of two orientations: Reactive-Responsive, or Creative. I'd like to choose to be the creative force in my own life!