Are you aware of your shopping and consumption habits? Do you own them and see them as others would see? I am asking because possibly the most powerful action we can take for the Earth is to pay attention to those habits and make them more sustainable. But we cannot change something we are not recognizing. The trick is that we are talking about habits. And they are difficult to change because their roots go deep into our decision making processes, values, beliefs, and identity. There are many situations in our lives when we face the reality that habit change is difficult. But there are ways to make it easier!
We can observe our beliefs and values. But they cannot suddenly be changed only by the power of decision. Luckily, as habits are just short or small routines of behavior, we can intentionally work with them. It is not always easy, as our belief system is hovering in the background. Fun, isn’t it?
And then there is the motivation part, which also is born from our beliefs. Our beliefs and values tend to change when we stick to designated behavior. That happens because we are not willing to act against our beliefs. Who would? But that can be a positive thing. If we intentionally push through a useful or beneficial habit, our whole behavior and belief system can slowly begin to change. Even our motivation can grow during the process. The dark side, of course, exists. Say someone cheats or steals – for whatever reason, even though it is against the person’s values. When that person repeats that behavior, her mind begins to work and tries to make it more rightful or reasonable. Soon that person might believe that what she did, was a good thing!
But how to work with your habits intentionally? Just make a decision and stick to it? You want to save the world (or whatever is your reason), so the motivation should be there – right? Last time I wrote about the habit change and commitment I made with my skincare products. I changed all my shopping routines and preferences around them and became plastic-free. That did require a decision that aligned with my awakening new values. Remember, it is a new habit we want to learn – no matter how small. And our minds don’t usually want change because it is a threat. That is a primitive reaction and the critter brain (or lizard brain) talking. So no matter if you are changing a product, product family, exercise, routine, or diet – begin with small steps to avoid the alert!
The system I use with the changes I want to accomplish has five steps, and it is very useful with any habit change you seek. Here is a simplified version of it. Try it!
See what you have and be honest. Let yourself understand why this has been your habit. What have been the benefits of it? What would having the change do for you? Why? Who would benefit from the change? Often it’s not only you.
Is there something you might lose if you change your habit? Get aware of that – it will tell you why you are scared of the change. See how your life would be with the new habit. Live it through in your mind. (Yes, with a bottle of lotion, this might sound a bit ridiculous, but you got the point?)
Commit, say yes, be open-minded. Nothing new will be good enough if we have decided so. Arrange time – be willing. Notice your motivators again. Make old habits difficult and cover the new ones with flowers and sunshine – or whatever is positivity to you.
Schedule. People who want to lose weight schedule exercise time in their calendars. I scheduled time on mine for the search of the products. Remind yourself of the reasons why you want the change.
This step is often missing. It is so easy to slip back to old habits if no-one is holding you accountable. You are not the best person to do that for yourself (just saying). Declare what you have decided to do. Create a challenge and share it! Track and measure! Use an app or create your own tracking system. And be proud of your accomplishment even though no-one else was! Cultural wise, as a Finn, I can tell this is the hardest part. Any achievement, any change I make is just: “Nah, ok.”
Changing your lifestyle towards sustainability is a habit change, and it is not always easy. We are stuck with our old behavior and beliefs for a reason. At some point, they were serving us well. Partially we were raised into them when we were children. But now, the world as we know it is at the turning point, and it desperately needs us to make changes towards sustainability. I challenge you to observe your own consumption habits from the sustainability perspective and being honest with yourself. Are there any changes you could begin to make for the Earth and us?