Creating Sustainable Habits

The thought of creating a completely sustainable lifestyle can feel overwhelming, right?  Zero waste.  Minimalism.  Veganism.  Off-grid living.  These are great goals but they can turn people away from beginning their journey of sustainability, because they seem so extreme, and require a great deal of work, self-disciple or lifestyle change.  In my experience, people gradually transition into different lifestyles.  Rarely does it happen overnight.  And if it does, rarely does it stick.

Maybe you have a goal of being vegan or zero waste.  I applaud your commendable intentions!  But even getting from Meat Eater to Lettuce Leader can effectively be done in smaller, more habit forming steps. That’s why I recommend starting by creating sustainable habits.

So here are a few psychological tips to help get you started on your journey into a more sustainable lifestyle, the Guilty Granola way. If you are interested in specific sustainable habits to start with, visit 7 ways to be more sustainable.

don’t decide to be perfect.  decide to be better.

                This is the Guilty Granola Mantra. For most of us, setting goals that are so vastly different than our current lifestyles means a low success rate. And if you are anything like me, (a guilt-ridden imperfect perfectionist) feeling the heavy weight of failure and wallowing in self-criticism is what awaits an unachieved goal. It is usually better to pursue a sustainable lifestyle by creating sustainable habits first. Little by Little. Step by Step. With self-forgiveness when you slip. You got this.

start with the low-hanging fruit

                Sustainability is something that can be applied to all our actions, possessions and habits.  Every choice we make is an opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable world.  But that’s also what makes it feel overwhelming at times.  Because the opportunity of sustainability exists everywhere, all the time, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Thinking about your daily life, what would be easy to change?  Carrying reusable bags in your purse for shopping?  Buying local food at a farmer’s market weekly?  Changing your electricity to a renewable option?  Identify a few ways you can be more sustainable, then select the ones that are easiest.  If you tackle the easiest first, it’s a great way to gather some momentum and enjoy the sweet taste of success, like finally being able to do 10 push-ups in a row after a month of workouts.  (even Vin Diesel had little baby arms at some point, right?…Right???)

set yourself up for success

Converting to renewable energy or buying an electric vehicle are one time actions, but to create a sustainable habit, you have to think about what might get in your way.  For instance, using reusable bags at the market might seem like an easy thing.  But how will you remember to bring them?  Will you store them in your purse or computer bag?  Your car?  On a hook by the front door?  Make choices to set yourself up for success.  And if it doesn’t work, analyze why. Most of the time, you can remove the obstacles. But, on occasion, those obstacles might be out of your control. Learn to recognize when this is the case and select something else to work on. You might as well get going on a habit that will stick. It’s not giving up. It isn’t failure. It’s adaptation.

Let your wins pick you up and your ‘unwins’ inform your next efforts.

A quick recap:

1.Don’t be perfect, just be better.

2.Start with the low hanging fruit.

3. Set yourself up for success.

and a note on the art of slowing down

Sustainability is a movement.  It’s a lifestyle.  It’s a practice. It’s a look inward to see how your actions ripple outward.  To be on a sustainable journey means you have the compassion and vision to see beyond yourself- socially, geographically, inter-generationally.  Sustainability isn’t just the act of saving the planet.  It’s the act of saving ourselves: pursuing healthier, happier and more meaningful lives, moving away from materialistic yearnings that have a hold on us; making choices that make us feel good; moving toward being in tune with the earth, our fellow humans and the interconnectedness of life and energy of all living beings; offering attentiveness to and acting on the “Greater Good” and recognizing and putting our own energy toward the right priorities.

(I call these my ‘campfire kumbaya’ moments, where I know people want to roll their eyes a little, especially if someone else is looking at them, but secretly, it plucks a little chord on the campfire guitar of your heart. And if you actually didn’t want to roll your eyes at all, you might be ready for my thoughts on ‘sustainability and spirituality’.)

So enough of the corny, hand-holding, lovey stuff. I assure you, once you slow down and think about what really matters, it will become clear that pursuing more sustainable choices can be a good foundation for pursuing your priorities, too. And this can help you decide what sustainable habits to start with.

Looking for specific sustainable actions? Visit 7 Simple Ways to be More Sustainable.

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