How to change your habits: Question your story

Katie Azevedo good habits, grades, study skills

change your habits


We tend to engage in activities and habits that align with our ‘stories.’ We also tend to interpret our circumstances in terms of our ‘stories.’ This is all fine … unless our stories are not quite right. If our stories are not right, then neither are our activities, our habits or our perspectives. And that is not fine.

So if we want to change our habits (create new ones or eliminate those that no longer serve us), we have to question the stories we tell ourselves.

What do I mean by stories?

We all have stories. We have stories that explain why we are where we are, why we are who we are, and why we have or have not done certain things in our lives. Our stories give us context and relevancy. Our stories make us human. (Dear Oak Tree: I’m sure you have a story, but you have no lips, so … yeah.)

In a nutshell: Your story is your explanation for why you act and think in a particular way.

How does our ‘story’ apply to changing our habits – particularly a student’s school habits?

Students have stories too, and these stories are directly related to their school experiences and learning habits – both good and bad.

Take Mark, for example. Mark has always considered himself a disorganized person. That’s his story. So when he regularly loses or forgets his assignments, he simply blames his story. I’m just disorganized, and that’s the way I have always been. That’s just me.

But hold up. Is that story true? Mark, are you 100% certain that you’re genetically and clinically “disorganized”? No. Not likely provable.

But it’s easier for Mark to blame his poor organizational habits (or lack of organizational skills) on his genetic makeup than on himself.

Rewrite your story, Mark!

Tell yourself that you CAN be organized. Tell yourself that you CAN learn these skills. Heck, yell “Plot twist!” and convince yourself that you are a SUPER organized person. And then follow through by changing your habits.

As the cliché goes, if you think you can you can. If you think you can’t you’re right.

For another example, let’s look at Jessie. Jessie struggles significantly in math, and always has. Lately, she’s been falling more behind than ever. I’m just not good at math. Math just isn’t my subject. I’ll never be good at math. These justifications are all part of Jessie’s story.

Jessie, are you 100% certain that you’re “bad” at math? Are you completely sure that your brain is allergic to numbers? No. Not likely provable.

I get it: Maybe math isn’t Jessie’s favorite subject. It certainly wasn’t mine either. We all like what we like. But if Jessie continues to define herself as “not a math person,” then she never will be. If Jessie doesn’t change the story she’s been telling herself, she’ll never change her perspective, school experience or learning habits. Jessie might think “Yeah, but I fail my math tests, so that’s evidence that I’m bad at math.” To that I would respond, “No – that’s evidence that your story is that you’re bad at math.”

If you want to change your habits, you have to change your story. That means that if you want to improve your English grade, even though you consider yourself a bad reader, then find a way to become a better reader. Question your story! (Oh hey, here’s how to become a better reader.)

If you want to manage your time better but you’ve always told yourself that you’re a procrastinator, then learn some time management strategies. Question your story!

If you want to improve your grades but you’ve always told yourself that you’ll always just be a “C” student, then dig deeper and figure out why you’re stuck at average. Question your story!

Habits neither create nor eliminate themselves.  If your school habits need an overhaul, then write a new story for yourself. You’re the protagonist. You control the plot line. And you can write whatever ending you want.