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3 Steps to Fix Your Biggest Issue with Habits

habits podcast routine Apr 10, 2022

If you've recently failed at creating a new habit, I have one major reason to share with you on why that is. And I bet you'll be surprised.



You know I never shy away from sharing the imperfect parts of progress, so in today's episode I'm being totally transparent about my own recent habit fails. There are two new things I've been wanting to start doing, so I set a small goal and was determined to implement these habits. Then time went by and I never even got started...tell me I'm not alone??


I call these situations dangling habits, because they are not attached to anything that you're already doing. In this episode I explain more about how to anchor your habits in 3 steps. I'll even provide prompts so you can start to work on constructing a new habit while you listen. Together we'll practice consistency and find success with our newfound habits.



About a few other things...


Reclaim your creative power and rediscover who you actually are! If you’re ready to come back home to yourself, to be able to say that you know who you are and what matters to you, take my foundation course, “Finding Me.” It’s OK that you’ve lost parts of yourself along the way; but as you learn to anchor back into who you are and align your life to what matters to you, you’ll find that you have more strength, more fulfilment, and more creativity to bring to your important roles and responsibilities.


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Songs Credit: Pleasant Pictures Music Club




If you've recently failed at creating a new habit, I have one major reason to share with you on why that is. And I bet you'll be surprised.


Welcome to about progress. I'm Monica packer, a regular mom and recovering perfectionist who uncovered the truest model to dramatic, but lasting personal growth.


It's progress made practical, join us to leave the extremes behind and instead learn how to do something to grow in ways that stick.


If you'd like this podcast, and then you'll go crazy over my new course, coming out May 1st, the sticky habit method, the presale is going on right now with special bonuses. And you could find that out about


I'm one of those people that loved playing an instrument until I got to a certain age. And then even despite me saying, I wouldn't be one of these people, I totally petered out of practicing and doing well with it. And now I feel like I'm starting almost back at square one. I was a flute player all through high school.


And if I may say. I was the top flute player at my school when I graduated from high school, but I wasn't good enough to get into any of the college programs. And so now for over 15, 17 years, how many years has it been 18? You know, I've played here and there for my, for my church stuff or family things.


You know, year after year, my, my skills have gotten worse. So this was the year that I was going to get back into playing the flute. Again, a couple of years ago, I took lessons for a little while and I was ready to start that up again. Last month I went and got my flute repaired. I talked to my old teacher and I just told her, give me a month to try to get back on the horse and kind of practice my skills again.


And I decided to myself, I'm going to keep the small, because I know it needs to be doable. So I'm just going to tell myself, all I have to do is practice 10 minutes a day so I can get into the habit again. And I'm a habit person. I love learning about habits. I love teaching about habits, but even for myself, I did something really wrong in that strategy.


And I want to. Share that with you today, because guess what? I failed and keeping that new habit. I have not practiced my flu even for one minute. For the last month, since my flute was repaired, I actually love habit fails. That's what I call them. And that's when we are trying to create a new habit and we just fail at it either we try and we do well for a little while and we drop off or we don't even really get started.


And I again, remind you that even the most habit minded and most habit educated of us fail at new habits. In addition to that flute one, another one that I have filled out is writing every day. I told myself, okay, I'm going to keep this simple, trying to get into writing because I'm hoping to write a book this year.


That's one of my big goals this year. And I just said, okay, I'm going to write for just 10 minutes a day. I can do 10 minutes. It will be easy. It's something I can do, but even then I've, despite, you know, a couple of writing sessions are far past 10 minutes in length. I have not gotten into the habit of writing every day.


Now, these were both habit fails for me. They were both small, though. They were both doable, but I still failed at creating them. When you experienced a habit fail, I hope that you can take on the mind shift that I have learned the last few years, and that has really transformed my ability to create lasting habits.


And it's the mindset shift of looking at habit falis differently, of seeing habit fails as opportunities to give me information on what I need to do to make this habit stick. In the past what I used to do with these habit fails was I would get into that shame and blame cycle of getting mad at myself of thinking that I'm the worst or nobody else is like this.


And why do I always fail? I kept into this shame and blame cycle whenever I could to reaffirm to myself that I was bad at creating habits. Is that what you do too, when you experience a habit, fail, who do you blame, yourself? I want to volunteer this idea to you. It's not your fault. You are not to blame.


It's the method that you are following that is to blame. We are all following these methods that I have a lot to say about a lot, but they aren't realistic to our real lives. So we try to create a new habit and we think we're following some parts of the method that should make it work for us. And yet we still find ourselves failing.


And what do we do? Instead of blaming the method we're following, we blame ourselves. I want to end that for you by first, helping you look at habit fails differently as opportunities to grow, to learn, to have data that show you where to go fails and also to tell you one of the biggest reasons that people fail at creating new habits that they might be missing altogether.


And by my, I mean, the majority of people who have habit fails, So now that they've offered a new perspective on habit fails altogether and how it should be something that we just embrace. We put on our scientist's goggles, we look at the data that they offer to us. Next. I want to tell you the biggest reason why most of us fail at creating new habits.


There's obviously a lot of factors at play with habit fails. Maybe you went for too much too soon with. Maybe your habit wasn't specific enough or too perfectionist bound, like to all or nothing, but there's one in particular that I want to focus on today and this fix could fix your habit. Fails all together.


It's what I call the dangling habit. What was wrong with my goal to practice for 10 minutes a day, to write for 10 minutes. They were both small, right? And doable. The problem with both of these habits were that they were dangling habits, meaning they were not attached to anything. Think about some recent habit fails that you have had and how they might be dangling habits, meaning they're not attached to anything.


Some that come to mind for me that I see most common in our community are habits. Like I'm going to go for a walk. All right on my journal at night, I'm going to meditate. I want to pray. I want to get off my phone at night. If you don't have a new habit attached to an already existing habit, what you have instead is a dangling habit.


Think of these dangling habits like spider web. How many of us have seen a spider web in full form, like with all the beautiful webs and like intricate designs just out there dangling in the air. No, none of us have right.? Spider webs stick because they stick to something. If a spiderweb somehow gets thrown off its attachment and it's just dangling in the air and blowing in the wind, it's going to wrap around itself and fail and its job being a successful spiderweb, right.


It's dangling. And that flies away. That's the same thing with habits. If you want a sticky habit. It can't be a dangling habit. It can't exist in the air. It can't be something that you just plop into your life without it being attached to something.


Now what's the danger in these dangling habits. Even if we have great intentions, like I did, even if they're smaller, more manageable habits and they serve greater goals and ways we want to better live into our identities. So they're good stuff, but what is the danger and plopping in digging habits to our life?


To me, the danger is the fact that we can too easily forget what those new habits are. And that's been the case with me, with writing and with practicing my flute, life is just busy and I completely forget about it until I'm like up in the middle of the night doing something or some random time of day where I can't be practicing.


I'm like driving my kids around and suddenly like, oh yeah, I was going to write today. And then I immediately forget. This happens, especially as women because we're rock stars and we're awesome. And we also have the research backed, very proven responsibilities that are far more prone to making us interrupted and distracted. That's research backed.


So if we have a dangling habit, it's dangerous because we're going to forget. If we don't forget, or if we remember, but it's not very often. The next reason why this is a danger is because we can't be consistent with those habits. Inconsistency is like the kryptonite to habit formation. If you can not be consistent, it is not a habit.


Now I have a whole different way of looking at consistency. I'm not going to go down that road right now, but I will say consistency is key to creating habits that stick. So, if you can't be consistent, those habits are not going to stick. And the third, big reason why dangling habits to me are dangerous is because if it's just dangling and you're just supposed to plop it into your life miraculously, by remembering it suddenly and being in the right space and the right time and the right moment of free from responsibility.


It actually takes a ton of energy to just insert a random habit. And once something requires a lot of energy, it means you are going to burn out from it quickly. So how will we fix a dangling habit? Well, just like a spider web drifting in the wind, what we have to do is we have to take that habit and we have to attach it.


With a spider web. It is the most sticky once when it's attached to several things, whether that's different parts of a tree or different parts of a piece of furniture, it's attached. And because it's attached, it's able to remain strong. It's able to remain consistent and it does it's job fairly easily.


Right? Because it's attached. So again, what we want for you is to create habits that stick and to do that, we're going to take those dangling habits and attach them.


I have some major goals for this podcast this year. The most important one is one I cannot do alone. And it's to grow the amount of listeners who are regularly listening to the show and benefiting from it. Here's how you can help. And I have a great reward for you too, is share about the podcast on your Instagram story.


And when you share in that story, make sure you link to the episode either to the site or the podcast app you're listening on and tag me at about progress. And every time you do this as many times as you want during the month you are automatically submitted to a new monthly giveaway we're doing for a couple months where I give away some of my favorite things this month, I'm going to be giving away some of my favorite manicure products from olive in June, who I'm sure you've heard about so much on the internet.


I bought all their stuff with my own money and love it, use it regularly and would love to pass it on to you as a thank you. So again, all you got to do is share about an episode you love, link to it and tag me at about progress on your Instagram stories. Thank you so much.


Okay. Going with that spider web stuff. Again, what we are doing is you're taking your dangling habit and we're going to attach it. This is actually called habit stacking, and I'm sure you've heard of it before, but maybe you didn't make a connection to a brand new habit. Maybe we're just thinking more in terms of this longer routine that you wanted to create in a series of habits that needed to be stacked together to have that routine.


Instead what we want you to do is think of the small habit that you want to install and how you can attach it to something that already exists in your life. Another habit that is already in existence. I have some steps to help you figure that out. But I want you to think of that habit stacking. It's almost like what you're doing is like putting a sandwich together, but it's a habit sandwich and you already have a piece of bread that exists and maybe some Mayo on top of it.


And now you're going to attach the middle part. So we're going to attach the next, like maybe the meat or maybe the cheese. And that's the habit stacking from there. You can keep stacking more things. You can put whatever your routines are or your creations, routines are habits, stacks, right? So you get to stack to that habit, but stacking the habit has to, like, you can't just have like a piece of lettuce, be your sandwich, right?


You need it to be attached to other things in order for it to be doing a really good job and to work well. Maybe I've thrown in too many analogies, but let's keep going with this. Okay. So habit stacking is what we're going to do to that dangling habit. And again, it's where you attach the new habit to a habit that is already in existence.


Now it's actually a little trickier than you may think to do this. Let me tell you my process. And then I want you to think of a habit fail that you have had recently and how you can take what you've learned from that habit fail. And if it was dangling, like I've been describing in this episode, if it was just supposed to magically appear in your day-to-day life that I want you to follow this little process, the first step is to narrow down the when the second step is to decide the. And the third tip is to practice it.


I'm going to break this down for you. First tip was to narrow down the when. This is when you think of a time of day that you want this habit to go into. We can't just say I'm going to exercise more. You need to get more specific about what that looks like starting with the time of day.


Here is where I strongly want to encourage you to not shoot for the ideal we are going practical. We are going to go realistic. Realistically in your day-to-day life. What time of day would this habit work best in? What window of the day is it the morning? Mid morning, afternoon, on and on.


Once you have narrowed down a time of day, and you've been more specific about that, the when, you go onto the next step. You decide the what, think about that time of day that you have for yourself. And what typically goes on during that time. It doesn't mean you're a robot. So we're still saying typically, what kind of things and habits do you already have in place during that time of day that you could potentially add the new habit to?


Whenever I do this part with women, they start to get that like blank look where they're like, I don't have any existing habits during that time of day. Yes you do. And they're things that you don't even think about doing because they are habits. So for example, in the morning, there's probably likely some habits already in place that you won't even think about as habits, like brushing your teeth or using the bathroom or taking a shower or emptying the dishwasher.


Same thing goes with other times of day that we have: afternoon, evening. What are some general activities and habits that are already in existence during that time of day? And with that, I want you to choose one that would make good, realistic, practical sense for you then to attach the new habit to.


That's when you create something I call the, when-then-pairing. When I do the existing habit, then I'll insert the new habit. Let me share this with an example of me practicing my flute. I thought about this before I recorded this episode and I thought, Hey, realistically, for me, the best time this could go is mid mornings for me right now.


What already happens during that time of day? Most of my kids are gone. It's just me and my four-year-old. I usually shower. I usually get ready. I'm usually cleaning up breakfast stuff or cleaning around the house. We do some mommy school between he and I, like we read books and do letters and stuff.


So I can kind of brainstormed some general activities that go during that time of day. And then I had to narrow it down and decide which one of these do I want to attach the new habit. For me, I thought it made most sense for me to attach it to when I was done getting ready. So then I move on to creating the, when-then-pairing. At first I said, this would be it:


when I finished getting ready, then I'll practice my flute. And you might hear that, and you think that sounds perfect. Nope. It's not because it's still not specific enough. So even after you start with the first when- then-pairing, I want you to try to get even more specific. So for me, I would say, how do I know when I'm finished getting ready?


What's the last step to getting ready for me? It's usually that I put the makeup back in the makeup drawer and close the drawer. That is my, when that I'm going to attach the then to, so my final when then pairing I came up with is when I put my makeup on. Then, and I thought of the first step to my small habit of practicing for 10 minutes is that I have to walk down the stairs because downstairs in the basement is where we have the piano and my flute.


So my first step to that habit is to walk down the stairs. Here's my when-then pairing my finalized when-then pairing is to, when I put my makeup away, then I'll walk down the stairs. Okay. So that's what I want you to think about as first. When is this going to happen? What is it going to look like? Meaning you're whe- then pairing, attach it, attach it.


That's the most important part of the dangling habit, but there was a third step, right. And the third step was to practice it. Nobody is above this step. When I was a middle school teacher, I had these eighth graders that were definitely too cool for school. Right. And in my middle school, eighth grade was the last grade that I taught in.


And I wasn't much older than them. I was like 21, 22. And that might seem like a big time, you know, age difference when I was 21. But looking back, I'm like, oh my goodness. It was only a few years older than them. And I was trying to teach them just our routine of coming into the classroom and where to put their stuff and what to do first.


And at first I just told them what to do. And after a couple of weeks that wasn't working. And so then what we did is first we came up with this like body symbolism stuff. That's hard to explain, but I would act like, like I would have them literally like, act like they were walking in place. Then they sit down, open their book and they, they open their palms, like they're opening their notebook anyway.


So I kind of give them some body symbols. And that helped, especially as we like first you walk in, sit down, open the book like, we did that. But you know, what made the biggest difference is when I took 20 minutes or probably less honestly. And I had them all line up at the door of the classroom and practice walking in, greeting me, sitting down, opening their notebook and doing that little routine that we had.


That is what made them finally do it. Your brain is amazing because it can remember things when you have walked through it with your body outside of the time and space that you actually want to install this new habit. And so I want you to. To practice your, when then pairing outside of the normal time that you'll be doing this. Elite musicians practice, artists, dancers, mathematicians.


I don't know. They all practice their way to mastering something. And if you want to make a habit that sticks, if you want to master your habit, practice it. Remember your when-then pairing. And practice it. So pretend, like I would, what I would do is pretend I'm closing the makeup door.


Actually I would go into the bathroom,I would pretend I've done my makeup and close the drawer. And then I would walk down the stairs and I would do that a couple of times. And that's where you really get to hijack your brain so that it works, especially because now it's not a dangling habit, both in the plan that you have, but it's not dangling in your brain anymore.


It's more connected. Let me review my little process to attaching your dingling habit is one narrow down the when to decide the what and three practices. What I want you to do now is to think of that recent habit, fail that I asked you to think of earlier and ask yourself if you knew when it was happening and what was happening, meaning was it being attached to something, was it stacked onto another habit or not?


And also contemplate, like, did I practice it beforehand? So if not, that's what I want you to walk through that three-step process, narrow down the when. Decide the what, the when then pairing and practice it. One of the most common, small habits that you have all been working on is exercise. I've asked that I'm like, what are you working on without you failed at a lot recently?


And people say, exercise, I am betting you it's because it's not attached, it's a dangling habit. You just say, I'm going to exercise. Even if you say I'm going to exercise in the morning or in the afternoon. Still knowing the general time of day is not an attached habit. It's a dangling habit. So what I want you to do is to go through that process.


And as part of it, one last tip is I want to encourage you to start small. Even when you start that exercising routine, still keep it small. There's all sorts of research and teachings I want to share with you on why that is, but that would literally double the length of this episode. However, that information is in my new course, that is coming out May 1st, the Sticky Habit Method.


And it's currently in a presale right now. And I would love to have you take part. So if that is something that you are thinking about, can you consider joining the course? Right now we are doing some special presale bonuses that are going to end May 1st, including some free Q and A group coaching calls that I will host for each module as people work through them.


So we'll probably do like one a month for a little while and you get to take part in that. And that means that you get to get personally coached through your specific habits that you're working on. There's other bonuses included too, like a workbook special printouts.


First, you can sign up for sticky habit method at And that's all squished together. There's no hyphens sticky habit method.


I hope this episode gave you the hug and kick in the pants that you need to grow. Here are the progress pointers from this episode, and those are my go get our newsletter. Get access to this in a graphic form each week. Number one habit fails are good. They provide information on what we can do to create habits that stick.


Number two if you have a habit fail, there's likely several factors, but the most overlooked one is that it was actually a dangling habit.


Number three, a dangling habit is a new habit that is not currently attached to an already existing habit. And number four to fix this narrow down the when decide the what and practice it.


Your do something challenge this week is to analyze a habit fail that you've had and figure out how you can better attach it. If it's a dangling habit. So analyze a habit. And figure out how to attach it. If you do that, make sure you email me, DME, send me some sort of message or tag me so that I can see it.


So I could spotlight you on the show. This week I want to do a progressor spotlight of an Instagram, a comment reviewer, or I don't know, commenter Lilah B baby. That's her profile name? I love it. We recently talked about burnout and this is what she had to say about her own experience in learning that she needed to step out, she needed to give herself more support to go through a burnout.


She says, quote, luckily I was recently able to pull myself out of an extreme burnout situation by giving a huge task to my husband. I had to accept it wouldn't be done in the same timeline. I would have done it on because that's not how my husband works. That one shift helped immensely. Bigger and bolder changes, since to discover a pace of being able to prioritize many other things that have brought me to a much better place, end quote.


So I'm so happy for you, Layla. Thanks for sharing about that. Was this episode helpful for you? If so, here are two free and easy ways that you can help us. The first is to share about the show. And remember if you do it on Instagram with a link and tag me and about progress, you are automatically submitted to our monthly giveaway.


We're doing for a while. And number two, leave a review on apple podcasts or Spotify. We had two reviews left lately, and it meant so much to me to see those reviews after. Nearly four months of not having any reviews. So I'm really grateful. Those came in. Thank you so much for listening. My friends now go and do something with what you learned today.


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