What do you want to start noticing?

Like many people at the start of a new year, I think about what habits I want to build, but I also like to spend some time thinking about habits in general and how I might structure them differently.

I’ve written before about the three kinds of habit framework:

  • Automatic habits, behaviors you do without even thinking about them
  • Intentional habits, choices you make deliberately over and over again
  • Mindset habits, your default ways of thinking about the world

Over the past decade, many of my personal habits have rotated in and out between automatic, intentional, and just plain nonexistent. Mindsets seem longer-lasting, but more mysterious in their formation: often I’ve only seen progress in retrospect, when I suddenly notice I’ve been thinking and feeling differently. Getting my mindsets in line with my values also feels more satisfying of my desire to be the person I want myself to be (not just to do the things I want myself to do).

My current mental model for how to change mindset habits is the following process:

  1. Learn to notice the moments where the old mindset is active.
  2. Decide in advance how the new mindset might frame these situations.
  3. Make an intentional habit of responding to these situations with the new mindset.
  4. Convert the intentional habit to an automatic habit. (This is its own multi-step process.)

I find that it’s important to learn the noticing by itself first. Otherwise, if every time I notice an opportunity to practice the new mindset, I “reward” myself with the difficult mental labor of trying to respond differently, I will quickly learn not to notice at all. So I’m starting this year thinking about some of the things I want to notice:

  • Beautiful morning skies
  • House plants that need watering
  • Comparing myself to other people
  • The warm feeling of a hug from my daughter
  • Times where I could intervene in a moment of racism/sexism/etc.
  • When things get dusty
  • When my posture isn’t great
  • Times I’m slipping into zero-sum thinking

Most of these are moments where noticing isn’t really enough by itself, and eventually I’ll want to change my default response to them. But for now, I’ll just focus on noticing. How about you? What do you want to start noticing?

One thought on “What do you want to start noticing?

  1. This reminds me of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “Pay attention to what you pat attention to”
    I want to notice when I am using social media for escape (vs. sharing, learning, etc.)
    I want to notice opportunities for whimsy
    I want to notice what my kids notice about me- I am thinking a lot about how the moments we are having over and over now are going to build what their memories are of me in the future
    I want to notice when we are running low on something instead of only really registering it when we are out of something!


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