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Zen Habits | Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes| Marathi stories | Hindi Stories | Gujarati Stories

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Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes

‘Men learn while they teach.’ ~Seneca the Younger

It is a curious phenomena that when we try to change our habits — simplify our clutter, eat healthier, start exercising — the other people in our life don’t instantly want to be changed in the same way.

It’s as if they had their own minds!

Horrible as that might sound, it’s the reality we have to deal with if we have a family (or friends, roommates, coworkers, etc.). They often resist changes we make, or their possibly unhealthy habits stand in our way.

You’re trying to eat only whole foods, and yet your daughter eats goldfish crackers and pizza and Oreos. And she doesn’t seem to want to munch on asparagus instead!

So what’s a habit changer to do? Abandon all attempts at change? No. Force change on family members? Tempting, but not effective.

The answer is that there is no simple answer. I’ll share what has worked for me, but that won’t work for everyone. When you’re single and living alone, it’s easy to make whatever changes you want to make — but if you’re married, you have to make compromises. You live in the space that is common between the two of you, and that is negotiated space. When you add kids to your life, you now live in a space that is common between all of you, also a negotiated space.

What works? Let’s take a look at some strategies. Try one, try two, or try them all, and figure out what works in your negotiated space.

Getting Others On Board

Here’s a common scenario: you’ve read about some interesting challenge or change someone else has made, or perhaps read a magazine article or book on the topic, and have been giving it some thought, and finally arrived at the decision to make the change … and then you spring it on your significant other or entire family. They somehow aren’t as enthused as you’d like!

That’s because you have gone through an entire thinking process to arrive at the decision, and they are being asked to come in only at the end — after the decision has been made. That’s not fair to them, because they haven’t had time to go through the same thinking process, to consider the reasons, to find the motivation, to be included in the decision.

I’ve found a more effective method is to get all the people who will be affected in on the thinking process as early as possible. Don’t talk to them about it when you’re near the decision-making point … talk to them when you first hear or read about the idea. Talk about why it’s appealing to you. Get their input. Ask whether they’d consider that kind of change. Talk about your motivation. Include them every step of the way, until the decision is made, and even after.

What people don’t like is being forced to change, against their will. So never make people feel that way. Don’t ask them to change … ask them to help you change, once you’ve gotten to the decision. Say that their support is really important to you, and while they are welcome to join you (you’d love that!), they don’t have to change. Just help you make your change. Ask them to be your accountability buddy, someone to call on when you’re having trouble, someone to report problems and successes to.

Setting the Example

While not everyone will be instantly on board with your ideas for change, I’ve found the best method of persuasion is being a good model for change.

When I started exercising, most of my family wasn’t doing it. I tried to convince people, but I wasn’t as good at persuasion as I thought. When they saw me exercising, at first they thought I was a bit kooky. Then they saw the changes in me, and how much I enjoyed it, and I would share how great it was, and over time, it inspired some to think about it.

That’s what you can do — inspire people to consider something they wouldn’t normally consider, just by setting a good example. No one else will do yoga with you? That’s OK … keep doing it, and share your experiences. Do it in front of them as they watch TV. Try not to be annoying, though.

Making Changes on Your Own

If others won’t get on board with your changes, ask for a minimum amount of support: ask that they give you the space to make the change on your own, without their help. This isn’t a small thing sometimes — often people are threatened when someone in their life makes changes, or they don’t like the disruption of their routine of doing things with you (eating junk food together, for example). You doing something on your own is a big change for them.

Ask for the space to do it alone, and ask that they not criticize or otherwise make it hard on you. If they are resentful, this makes it more difficult, but you’ll have to make an effort to show that this is something that will make you happy, and you will do your best not to disrupt things for them. If that means you don’t spend mornings together because you are out running, then try to create other time together, like in the evenings or on weekends.

When you make changes on your own, without the support of others, it’s more difficult. You need to find other encouragement — I’ve joined running groups online, a smoking cessation group, and other similar groups. Facebook and other social networking tools can also be helpful in finding online support. Often there are groups in your area where you can meet people in person who are going through the same changes.

Family Challenges

One of my more successful strategies is creating challenges for my family. They aren’t required to do the challenges, of course, but sometimes people like the opportunity to rise to a challenge. And they like making changes with others.

My wife and I have created eating challenges to do with each other (we call them Lean Out Challenges, usually after we go on a trip and gorge ourselves on unhealthy food). With the kids, I’ve challenged them to do pushups, handstands, running, vegetarian experiments, daily drawing, and more.

Challenges are fun if you do them together. It can be fun to do it as a competition, or to offer rewards for people who complete the challenge.

Notes on Eating Habits

Eating changes can be especially difficult if your family isn’t doing it with you, because they can be eating junk food right in front of your face as you try to much on celery. Tough stuff.

Here are some notes from my experiences:

  • If you do the cooking, cook food for the family, and cook your meals separately. Eva & I often cook our healthy food in bulk and eat the same food for days, while the kids eat other things. For some reason they’re not big kale and quinoa fans. Kids.
  • Kids can change their taste buds, but slowly. They won’t instantly like big green salads, but you can introduce vegetables slowly, in soups and other dishes they might be used to. Dice carrots and kale can be added to chili and spaghetti sauce if you cut them small enough and add them when you’re cooking onions/garlic.
  • Kids will eat nearly anything if you add some baked fries to the dish.
  • If the kids are going to eat something especially tempting (pizza), I try to make myself scarce so I don’t have temptations. It’s too hard to avoid junk that I enjoy eating, if it’s right in front of me, so I’ll go for a run or go to my room to do some work — keep busy.
  • We try to find restaurants that has healthy food that the kids will like.
  • When I went vegetarian, Eva & the kids weren’t vegetarian. I did get them to try some dishes, which they generally liked, and then would just eat my food separately from them. If I made my food especially delicious, it would be tempting for them to at least try.
  • Kids will go to any restaurant if there’s dessert at the end.
  • Many people don’t like the idea of vegan food, even if they’ve never tried it. Making delicious vegan cupcakes will often win them over, at least to try it. I recommend Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Truly amazing.

Supporting Their Changes

If you want others to support your changes, you should also support theirs. When my kids or wife express a desire to make some change, I do my best to help them achieve that:

  • I share my experiences and what worked for me, and how I overcame some obstacles.
  • I share websites and books that help with that change, and often will buy books to help them.
  • I’ll do a project with them, or create a challenge we can do together.
  • I run and workout with my wife, and created a workout log to help her track her fitness.
  • I share vegetarian recipes with my wife (who is now vegan), and with my daughter, who decided to try vegetarianism

There are more possibilities, but these are a few examples. When they see you supporting them, they now have a model for how to act when you want to make changes in the future. It’s not an overnight change that you’ll see in your family, but slow gradual long-term changes. Play the long game when it comes to changing the culture of a family.

Learn by Teaching

The best way to make changes yourself is to help others. That means supporting them when they want to make changes, sharing the changes you’ve made and teaching them what you’ve learned, showing someone how to do something cool after you’ve learned how to do it.

You are teaching by making changes and sharing those changes with your family. They might not care about learning at first, but they will, over time. And when you teach, you learn more and more. As I am now, sharing with you.

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
Liking Healthy Foods is a Choice
Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
Declutter Your Life
A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
The Little Book of Contentment
The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
The Work You Love is Waiting For You
The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing
The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
How to Learn Anything
Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
Untrack: Letting Go of the Stress of Measuring
15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC

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