The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)

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Photo: memory of our honeymoon in California 

I decided to start running again. In order for you to understand how big this decision is for me you need to know a little background story.

I always hated running. Five years ago, I decided to give it a real try anyway. For the first month, I moaned every second, I hurt everywhere and hated it even more. Every step was like a stub in my side, and every outing a very unpleasant time for everyone involved (Alex and myself). My pace was ridiculous, about 8’/km, I was basically bounce walking more than running. 

But I had decided to stick with it, and so I did. For a whole month, I hated every minute of it, but then something happened. One day, I went out and I started running faster, my body didn’t hurt, I looked around and I remember appreciating for the first time the gorgeous sunrise that I had until then ignored.

My body and my mind had accepted that form of exercising and, just like that, a habit was created. I ran for almost a year, and started loving it and missing it when I couldn’t go. I was in the best shape of my life. My dancing was at its best, I was never tired. I felt really good.

When I got pregnant with Oliver I kept running, then switched to walking in the last two months, and kept walking 5-8K once he was born. At some point though, I stopped completely.

That’s why the other day, I was quite nervous to put on my running shoes, drop the kids at school, play my music and start running again. But that’s exactly what I did, and… oh my, I was so surprised! 

It was easy.

Yep, actually easy! There was no resistance from my body nor from my mind. I was in physical pain, yes, but I already knew how to handle it: I simply kept repeating to myself “Pain is temporary, giving up is forever”, which was my mantra in that first month of running five years ago. I thought I was going turtle pace, but when I checked at the end of the 5K, it was below 6’/km.

A habit is like a dance step: once you know it, you can replicate it! 

Starting to run again taught me this: just like your muscles have memory for exercise, your mind has memory for habits! When you learn a habit, even if you then break it, getting back into it will always be easier than the first time. It might seem obvious, but I think too often we don’t realize the power of creating habits.

Yesterday, on my run, I realized that a habit is like a dance step: when you can do it once, you can always replicate it. And it applies to everything in life. 

Ten years ago I created a language business from nothing. Starting was really hard, I thought about giving up so many times, but I didn’t, and in just 6 months I was working from 9am to 9pm every day. Two years ago I stopped teaching, but I know I will always be able to start that kind of business again.

Two years ago I launched my first Montessori course. There was so much resistance in my mind, “Will it be good enough?”, but I pushed it away, I finished it, put it for sale, and it’s been selling ever since. My first product. Now that I’m writing my second course, there’s still resistance as it’s new territory, but… I did it once, I can do it again.

Before this blog, in 2007 I had another personal blog and every post had over 50 comments (this was before the real advent of Facebook, when people sadly stopped commenting on posts and started commenting only on social media). Back then I didn’t realize how rare this was, and when my language business took off, I dropped the blog (silly me!). But that experience made me feel less self-conscious about starting this blog—I did it once, I can do it again—and today it’s my job! 

The list goes on: I once stopped eating sugar, I can do it again; I once did months of the hardest home workouts that exist, I can do it again; I once moved countries for good, I can do it again; I once followed the paleo eating style for four years, I can do it again. You get the gist.

And yes, I am totally bragging! We need to celebrate ourselves and our achievements: the flexible, ever-changing, eclectic, strong-willed, confident woman I am today wasn’t born in a day. She was born in 12 years of ups and down, through success and failure, especially failure.

Creating habits shapes your life and way of thinking

These last 12 years of challenging myself to create habits have taught me so much, and I want to share it with you because it’s changed my whole life and way of thinking.

It taught me not to fear challenges, but rather welcome them. And today I use the same mindset when it comes to challenges for my kids.

It taught me that every time I have the chance to create a habit—it being not complaining for a month, doing yoga every morning, playing an hour a day with my children—I should try. Habits are challenges, and challenges are always a good idea.

It taught me that every time I have the chance to prove to myself that I can achieve something—baking a cake, publishing a book, running a marathon—I should take it. It will put that specific achievement in my mental drawer of “things I can replicate any time”. 

It taught me that every time I have the chance to change something in my life—hairstyle, job, country—I should do it, especially if that something hasn’t made me happy for too many days in a row. Change is the dark cave I need to get in in order to find the treasure—and there’s always a treasure.

And creating good habits also gave me the ability and mental tools to break bad habits. Sure, breaking bad habits is harder, but if you have enough experience at creating and sustaining good habits, you can use that same will power as it’s already available to you.

As Steve Jobs once said, “You can never connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards”. The other day, while running, I had one of those connect-the-dots moments: creating habits has been the ability that has shaped THE MOST my way of thinking, approaching challenges, knowing and appreciating my worth, learning other abilities and walking through life with confidence.

Everybody talks about the power of habits, but it’s CREATING those habits—the journey, not the end result—where the real power lies.

What’s your next challenge?


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The woman behind the words

My name is Carlotta, I’m 33 years old, I’m Italian, married to a Finnish guy, and together we raise Oliver (4) and Emily (2) Montessori and multilingual. We’re selling everything to travel the world.

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  1. emanuela - March 26, 2019

    Ciao Carlotta…scoprirti e leggerti e’ stato veramente bello…io credo che si debba imparare molto da voi giovani…tu mi fai riflettere su molte cose. Un grandissimo in bocca al lupo per il tuo viaggio nel mondo. Io e mio marito con il figlio allora 18enne ( lui per periodi brevi perche era nell anno della maturita) siamo partiti dall’ italia in barca a vela e arrivati oltreoceano e rimasti per 2 anni girovagando …esperienze che restano negli occhi e nel cuore, perche non sei un turista ma ti integri nel tessuto sociale e riesci veramente ad essere te stesso senza sovrastrutture. Scusa la lungaggine. Un abbraccio anche se virtuale. Emanuela
    p.s. ho consigliato il tuo blog a mio figlio e moglie che stanno per avere una bimba!

    • Carlotta - April 5, 2019

      Carissima Emanuela, “credo che si debba imparare molto dai voti giovani” è uno dei più bei commenti che mi abbiano mai scritto! Ti ringrazio!

      Che avventura, la vostra! Hai colto in pieno l’essenza della nostra decisione di viaggiare il mondo da non turisti e, nonostante tanti ci dicano che i bimbi sono troppo piccoli, io credo che sarà un’esperienza incredibile e un arricchimento per tutti e quattro.

      PS. Grazie per aver consigliato il blog a tuo figlio e spero continuerete a leggermi! Un abbraccio virtuale!


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