balance new habits for optimal results


Though we are now almost a week into the new year, it seems like today is the somewhat “official” start of our 2014 daily routines. With this in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to address an overlooked aspect of habit changes: making sure they are balanced.

When we seek to alter our habits we often do one of two things:


1) We decide to eliminate an old habit – such as excess TV watching, smoking, fast food, or even toxic relationships.

2) We decide to implement a new habit – such as creating a private victory routine, working out on Tuesday nights, or making homemade lunches more often.


Sometimes making these shifts is relatively easily, and sometimes it can be quite challenging.

I believe that habit shifts are more difficult to accomplish if they are not tied to a true intention. Or, if they have a guiding intention, they can still cause trouble if they are imbalanced.

What is a balanced habit?

A balanced habit involves both what you want to include and what you want to remove.

When we don’t take the time to consider both sides of the habit equation we can often find ourselves mired in frustration and inaction.

We may know what we want to add to our lives, but we can be unaware of what we need to subtract from our lives in order to free up time or space for the new habit.

The subtraction issue is common particularly when it comes to anything that involves time. Getting up earlier for workouts, mediation, or private victories, is often difficult not because we don’t want to, but because we never stop to consider that it may require us to shift our evening habits. 

We might have to stop watching that last episode before bed in order to get up earlier. That habit shift might be the one we really need to pay attention to first, in order to fulfill our early morning vision.

Or, perhaps we want to spend more time with our partners in the evening. We must assess our life and find where that time will no longer be spent. Spending more time with our loved ones requires us to shift our time spent on another priority first.

On this front I have good news: 

From all of the clients that I’ve worked with, I have rarely (actually, never) found a case where someone wanted to add a habit to their lives and did not have an available pocket of time for that habit.

The challenge is to recognize that the present time slot is not being used to your best use, and to overcome any mental resistance to making that shift.

It is also imperative to consider a replacement habit if you are seeking to remove an old habit.

For example, I used to eat Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Mac and Cheese everyday for lunch for about a year and a half. I loved everything about the little light blue boxes of joy. They were easy to make, tasty, and quick to eat.

However, my consciousness towards this this habit slowly shifted. Though my ego was quite happy with this lunch routine, the deeper part of me knew that eating the same frozen meal for the next 20 years would not support my overall wellbeing.

As my intuitive resistance grew towards the mac and cheese habit, I never took the time to discover a suitable meal alternative. I didn’t want to waste energy on finding a more nutritious and equally fast and tasty option. So I stopped buying mac and cheese, but never knew what when the clock struck twelve.

Let me tell you, as someone who doesn’t want to have to make a decision about food at lunchtime, I was going crazy scrounging up something to eat everyday.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to spend some time figuring out what I did want to eat in order to escape the frustrating habit shift. The pain of not having a replacement meal became much greater than the loss of my beloved mac and cheese.

It took a bit of experimentation, but I’ve finally found my lunch alternative: homemade tofu and kale lasagna. Mr. Lively bakes me a pan of it every few weeks that I split it into pieces and freeze.

Though lacking a replacement habit is a more uncommon habit imbalance, we must recognize that killing an old habit requires the development of a new one, consciously chosen or not.

If you find that you are making a few shifts this week, I hope you take the time to consider both sides of the habit equation:

What are you removing and what are you including? 



You deserve to find the fulfillment and joy that comes with an intention-based life – no more shoulds, shame, or “one day” thinking required.

Work with me one-on-one to find a balanced way to live a better life.

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  1. This reminds me of the quote “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Every change take discipline and planning in order to make sure that you can make the change you are seeking. Working on this currently!

  2. KL

    This is just what I needed. I teach at a school and everyday I come home its like a free for all of snacks. Anything in the kitchen ends up in my mouth and I end up with negative thoughts in my head. However, I want to remove this habit completely from my life. I am removing binge eating and replacing it with recognizeing true hunger, self control and the ability to do something else when I get home from school that doesnt involve food. Maybe thats working out, reading a book or going for a walk. Today is my first day trying it so wish me luck!

    1. Jess Lively

      Thank you for sharing, KL! I thank you for your openess and for sharing your journey! If you haven’t read “Women, Food, and God,” I highly recommend it! It helped me break free of binge eating myself (but it kind of felt like the poem I shared here: for a long time).

      I hope you have a great afternoon – filled with peace and joy. If you are able to find a way to be away from any triggers (like the kitchen, for instance) that might help you. Also, a warm cup of tea might also be a nice transition as well – whether while walking or reading. : )

      Please let me know how it goes!

    2. Katie

      Good Luck! Snacking is a big downfall of mine also. Try a healthy snack just before you leave work, or in the car. For me it makes it easier to convince myself I’m not hungry when I get home.

  3. Ale

    This is something I’ve been doing for a few months now, but I go about it the other way round: I implement the new habit first, then I let the old habit gradually “fall off” my life. This works better for me because I find it easier to “take on” than to “give up”. For example, when I decided to eat more healthily, I started by adding one salad, one serving of yogurt and one handful of nuts every day. I never made the resolution to give up any foods (which in my case would have led to feelings of deprivation, anxiety and binge eating), but the healthier options I had introduced often ended up replacing the less healthy ones. When I decided to add regular exercise to my routine, I was worried that I wouldn’t have time for it, but I signed up for twice-a-week swimming lessons and guess what, my schedule just rearranged itself around them, and the only thing that disappeared from it was mindless tv-watching and internet-browsing. Same with my resolution to read fifty books in 2013: because I was devoting more time to reading, less important stuff (like, again, bad tv and social media) was gradually pushed off my daily schedule.

    1. Jess Lively

      Thank you so much, Ale! Yes, you are totally right, when we are aligned with a true intention, our desire for the new habit change can completely and naturally replace any old habits that need to die off. The examples you mentioned for eating healthier snacks and swimming lessons were so strong intentionally, that you naturally overcame any resistance you felt to making those changes and dropped the old habits.

      When a true intention isn’t found, or if the resistance to going to bed early, in the morning wake up example, is very strong, we can face a lot of resistance to making the positive change. That is the time when it is important to recognize what other linchpin habits ( ) might be at play that also need to be dealt with in order to overcome the resistance and making that change.

      Like you, I believe a true intention-based action can crowd out any unnecessary habits, but there are times when it can be helpful to bring awareness to the other half of the equation if we find ourselves having difficulties. : )

    2. Daniela at Daniela's Facial St

      I did this as well ! 🙂 I let my body feel the goodness of the healthy food figuring the unhealthy would become less and less appealing, and it worked. I haven’t yet figured out how to do that with exercise, though… 😀

  4. Daniela at Daniela's Facial St

    I am really loving this post. One for saving, that’s for sure. Setting and breaking habits has always been an unbelievable challenge for me because fatigue from food sensitivities really gets my energy down and my pessimism up. Then there’s the memory of all the failures from the past. It’s especially crucial now, because in my eleventh year in business I set and implemented goals for the first time in my life, and now entering my twelfth I’m feeling much more overwhelmed than I ever did before. In my personal life, weight issues and poor health habits plague me year after year. So, I decided that all the planning and goal setting/scheduling that I did in my skincare business, I have to do in my personal life. What have I learned so far? “There’s an app for that!” 😀 My iPad is now my life.

    1. Jess Lively

      I’m glad you found a system that has worked for you, Daniela! Congrats on finding a system that works for you.

  5. This is a great post, and something I’ve also come to realize on my own lately as well. I have recently dedicated myself to being a freelance writer/blogger and, after declaring I didn’t have enough time for everything, I took a good look at how I was spending my time and realized I had more than enough time to accomplish my goals. I now wake up earlier which has been an infinite help and am more conscious of time ‘wasted’ and how to use it effectively.

    1. Jess Lively

      That is so wonderful to hear, Kelsey! I’m glad you have debunked the myth of not enough time in your life. : )

  6. Kim Campbell

    I eliminated games on my phone and ipad because they were time wasters. I do more reading: the Bible, kindle while i feed my youngest, and at night to unwind!

    1. Jess Lively

      Very nice! Subtracting a habit by making it more difficult/impossible to do (like deleting games) is a great way to make a change easier. : )

  7. Sage Grayson

    Tofu and kale lasagna sounds delicious! This year I’m removing some of my limiting beliefs about what an entrepreneur “should” do, and I’m including more self-care habits and nurturing adventures (like scouring the library for a few hours instead of cruising the internet).

    1. Jess Lively

      That is so great to hear, Sage! And if you want the recipe for the lasagna, it is found in the cookbook, Clean Food. : )

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