September is the BEST time for what activity?

Forming or Changing a HABIT
and setting new goals!
Don’t wait for New Years Resolutions

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decisions & Attention Series

New year, new goals

Somebody needs to write a new anthem: The kids are back in school!!  (My brain wants to sing it to the tune of The Boys are Back in Town)

Except for our under-appreciated, overworked teachers, most parents begin yearning for September long before July is in their rear view mirrors.

As much as they look forward to more family time during the school year, most have forgotten how having the youngsters at home all day tends to make a shambles of their schedules.

But the teachers are aware of something that the rest of us tend to overlook . . .

September really begins the New Year

I don’t care how old you are, unless you were home schooled or spent your younger years in full-time boarding school, most of us feel a fresh gust of wind beneath our wings at the start of every school year.  That tends to be the case even for those of us who don’t have kids at home anymore – or never had kids at home (old habits die hard).

  • Few of us complain about the early appearance of new notebooks and school supplies in the stores nearly as much as we kvetch about shelves of early Jack-o-Lanterns, Pilgrims, Turkeys and Christmas sparklies.
  • Many of us are as pleased by wandering the aisles to replenish our supplies of journals and pens as the kiddies who are excited to see the latest in backpacks.
  • And many folks fill the first few pages of those brand new journals with brand new goals for the brand new “school year” – an old habit reactivated.

Those folks and the teachers are aware of something
that the rest of us would do well to keep in mind . . .

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Starting out RIGHT is key

Teachers know that those first few weeks after school begins anew set the tone for the remainder of the year.

If they let things slide in the new classroom, it can be tough to rein them in subsequently.

If they insist on new behaviors long enough for students to make them habitual, they can generally “ease up” for the remainder of the year and the expected behaviors will remain in place.

Researchers who study habit formation and maintenance explain that we can thank the concept of context change for that little reality — both the good news and the bad news.

From the Journal of Environmental Psychology:

We refer to context as the environment where behavior takes place. This may include the physical environment and infrastructure, but also spatial, social and time cues which instigate action.

When context changes or an individual changes context, old habits are disrupted, and behavior has to be renegotiated.

  • The habit discontinuity hypothesis states that when a context change disrupts individuals’ habits, a window opens in which behavior is more likely to be deliberately considered.
  • The self-activation hypothesis states that when values incorporated in the self-concept are activated, these are more likely to guide behavior.

Combining these two hypotheses, it was predicted that context change enhances the likelihood that important values are considered and guide behavior.

So what’s the bad news?

When we miss those windows of context-change opportunity, it is much more difficult to establish new habits that take us in the direction of our goals.  As a result, we are much less likely to set them in place, and much more likely to fall victim to so-called “procrastination.”

Markers of context change

Much of what was formerly familiar changes when we move from one house or apartment to another – especially when the new dwelling place is far from the old.

Some of our old habits remain to give us structure that is comforting, but others simply cannot be sustained in the new environment.

So settling in after a move is an excellent time to revisit our goals and to jettison habits that no longer serve our new lives — to set about replacing them with habits more likely to take us where we want to go.

  • Graduations of all types thrust us into the world of change, life begins anew with each change of job or profession, and again at retirement.
  • Births, deaths and empty nests often turn life upside down for a while.
  • As we recover from what is frequently a disorienting, often disturbing change, these are all excellent opportunities to replace older habits with newer ones.

Those types of context changes are particularly helpful as life-improvement prompts.  We are practically forced to develop new behaviors, which often necessitates the development of new habits since many reminders no longer remain, ringing the bells that formerly caused us to salivate on cue

But, for most of us, how often do those opportunities come along?

September, on the other hand, gives us a yearly shot at changing our lives for the better.  Taking advantage of our brain-links to our school-day context changes actually makes it easier to change today’s behaviors in a manner that is more likely to remain in place.

But, but, BUT . . .

If we don’t make up our minds to do what it takes to develop new HABITS, effectively putting our new behaviors on auto-pilot, we will always be forced to debit cognitive bandwidth as we make the decision to keep those new behaviors in place . . . every single time.

With that in mind, I have decided to revisit some of the content of my older Habits, Decisions and Attention Series – augmenting it with some brand new information and some coaching exercises.

Now that September is firmly underway, grab yourselves a brand new notebook and make it a point to take some time before it ends to list a few goals that have remained illusive – or some brand new goals you’d like to reach – or some habits you’d like to jettison.

I’ll be playing right along with you, so STAY TUNED
and be ready to share your frustrations and your wins.

If you follow along as the Series continues to develop — and actually DO some of the exercises suggested — by next September you just might have a brand new life.

Questions for notebook noodling  – ASAP:

  1. What bad habits would you like to DE-activate this year?  Smoking, perhaps, or reaching for junk food when you are stressed?  Anything else?
  2. What new habits would you like to put in place?
    I’m going to be reactivating my lapsed Yoga practice, along with a few other habits that were destroyed in my last move.  What about you?
  3. RATE IT!
    How confident are you, on a scale of 1-10, that you will be able to change what’s going on NOW?
  4. Revisit your first instinct
    What would it take to improve your projection by one measly point?  How about two points?  Take the question seriously, and be specific.  Really!  What would it take?


BY THE WAY: A great habit to consider putting into place is that of donating blood regularly – especially now.  Texas and Florida NEED your blood.

For a bit of inspiration check out Lifetime Habit Resumed Post-Cancer (giving blood again).  Both articles are quite short.

Don’t rely on the Lone Ranger approach

Start looking for a buddy to play along with you as you work your way through the Habit Series – even a virtual helpmate. Enrolling a charge-neutral, NO make-wrong, totally encouraging accountability partner has been proven to make a HUGE difference in the probability of your actually reaching those goals you set for yourself.

REMEMBER, if you want some personalized professional help with accountability and developing those new habits, that is part of what I DO. And I’d love to do it with you. Get in touch if you want to talk about it.

Meanwhile, check out:

How to live a life that doesn’t suck
Bumbershoots, Metaphysics, Logic & Coaching

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

105 Responses to September is the BEST time for what activity?

  1. Pingback: Developing those habits | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Sleep Timing and Time Tangles | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. This habit isn’t exactly new but I’d like to read my Bible More. I already read Christian books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another wonderful article! It reminded me of an old psychologist joke: how many psychologists do you need to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb must want to change. I hope your article makes some light bulbs turn on!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sageleaf says:

    Such an interesting read! You’re absolutely right about September. We’ve all gone through the system (unless we were homeschooled or educated in another country in which case the timing is different) and I was a teacher from 2006 – 2015. Then I’ve worked in school administration or heading up after school programs. It’s so ingrained in me that the writer/artist part of me finds it hard to take a step back from that. I don’t have kids, but yet I still think about September, the changing of the leaves, the colder nights and looming time change…lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Nine years in the classroom – wow! Wonderful to hear that, in your school anyway, administrators understand the needs of teachers because they’ve been “in the trenches.” I would love to see that in ALL schools. I doubt that biz-degreed administrators will ever get it otherwise. So many of the things they want to put in place fly in the face of what science knows about the learning brain.

      Your last sentence underscores the context change for me – sweater weather! Until the heat here subsides — lingering still, frustrating for those of us who are heat-defensive — my cognitive flag is still flying at half-mast.

      I know from years of experience that the arrival of crisp weather will bring forth my personal new year. Any day now! (but I’m not looking forward to that “looming time change” and a few weeks of crazy chronos!)


  6. Wonderful to read dear Madelyn I think many now are sensing a need for change, and are shifting gears, in their habits..

    My own is moving more away from the internet, and as those dark nights draw in, my crafting tools such as my knitting comes out. 🙂
    There is something satisfying hearing the click of the needles instead of a keyboard.. :-).

    And I smiled as I read the bit about those notebooks and back to school days.. Yes at the end of a long Summer Break from School, I think both parents and children looked forward to going back to school..

    Even my 6 yr old granddaughter recently said upon returning in the beginning of Sept, how happy she was to be going to see her school friends again and not be ‘Bored!’

    Something I doubt I will be, as I have plenty to keep me occupied..

    I also smiled even wider, As I bought myself a new note book only the other day, as my other journal I had filled ending it with a long rant… This one I intend to fill with positive vibes .. And I have another project on the go of writing a story in poetry form.. So we shall see how that progresses..

    So September for me is filled with new and old habits that merge and grow..
    Sending lots of love Madelyn..
    And wishing you a wonderful rest of September my friend
    ❤ 💜💛
    Sue 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue – both for reading and for taking the time to leave this wonderful comment.

      I never took to knitting – not for lack of trying! I would get distracted and pick it up going the wrong way, somehow – always knitting “holes” in whatever I was working on. Too frustrating to keep trying.

      Chuckled at your granddaughter’s comment about being “bored.” Some day I’ll bet she’ll yearn for one of those ‘nothing to do’ days. I know I do. Like you, I always seem to have “plenty to keep me occupied.”

      I laughed aloud reading about your “notebook rant.” I sometimes fear that anyone finding all my journals once I’m gone will get the totally wrong impression of my life, should they ever read the content. Most folks who know me would consider me an extremely positive person, especially in the face of more than a few adversities (except for my very closest friends, of course, who are the keepers of my confidences).

      I am trying to change the habit of dumping my frustrations in my journals — focusing more on my gratitude notebook. I AM a positive soul, actually, but I certainly have my moments – much too well documented in more than a few journals over the years. 🙂

      Also like you, I am rethinking my internet involvement in the coming year – downsizing again, most likely, to free my time for some projects that have been languishing. I truly love interacting with the blogging community, but it IS time consuming. At the very least I need to turn some attention to downsizing in a less virtual manner!

      Ditto on the wishes for a glorious Fall. {{hugs and love}}


  7. dgkaye says:

    Loved this post M. For some reason I too feel it’s easier to start anew and fresh in autumn rather than the doldrums of January, ‘lunchbag letdown’ month after a whirlwind of holiday season. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. paulandruss says:

    Another brilliant article Madelyn.

    So many think they cannot modify behaviour- ‘That’s just the way I am’. Yet each of us change over time even if those changes are negative…. i.e. we become more set in our ways, more reactionary or less tolerant.

    There is an underlying mechanism for change, even if we do not realise it, and it must be the result of tiny incremental steps over time. Therefore why not try to influence the mechanism of change by looking at your flaws and trying to remedy them .

    The answer probably is people do not like analysing themselves in a way that takes them out of their comfort zone. Whereas, ironically, negative attitudes provide positive reinforcement to allow one to keep within the comfort zone… I’m not nice looking, I’m not confident, I can’t lose weight all allow you to stay within the limitations imposed on yourself by yourself.

    And just in case you think I think I’m some sort of bodhisattva or something, I’m not good at going outside my comfort zone to communicate with strangers over social media (even though I know I need to get my work out there) and I will do anything to avoid it. So this post hot on the heels of Debby’s using social media post is really making me think…. However I am already finding excuses why I cannot begin immediately…..I’m Libra, although I get there in the end (and wonder what all the fuss was about when I do) I was born to prevaricate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Born to prevaricate – VERY funny! As an extrovert, I am not personally fearful of following in Deb’s social footsteps – unless it is the fear that I will no longer have time to bathe or sleep if I try to add any more computer time to my days. (Even now I have only 30 minutes to get myself ready for a birthday party that begins at 9 o’clock, after typing my fingers to nubs all day – as the bathtub slowly fills as I type this reply to your wonderful comment.)

      I do agree that many folks become stuck in “the devil they know” behaviors – calling that their “comfort zone” even when it causes them a great deal of dis-comfort.

      Change is just darned hard – like writing and publishing a novel, it takes a gazillion baby-steps to move us from where we are to where we want to be. Staying on the horse takes resolve that many of us lack – or possess only in a limited number of environments. So it seems from where I look (and in my own life as well, unpublished as I am).

      Thanks for leaving such a well though out comment, Paul. And NOW I must get myself into the bath tub before I am even later than it looks like I will be already!

      Liked by 1 person

      • paulandruss says:

        I hope you had a nice relaxing bath and a nice invigorating party

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOUD, but quite a lot of fun, thanks – and great conversations once the band had to stop playing at 11 (neighborhood “rules”). I could even hear the band from my bathtub, several buildings away from the party through closed windows, so I really can’t blame the neighbors for complaining, even though the band was excellent. Frequently a big problem with electronic instruments, I’ve noted — and then, of course, they need to up the amps for the singers.

          I often wonder if the musicians fail to step off the stage to check the volume for those of us in front of the speakers, or if they’ve killed off the cilia in their ears from years of loud music and can’t hear it at lower volumes — but I frequently wish they’d turn it down a few notches or that I had purchased earplugs to protect my own hearing, which is currently excellent (not wishing to sound like a grumpy old lady, but really?)

          Invigorating it most certainly WAS, however! The birthday boy was quite pleased, and I was happy to have made it for most of the party.

          Tink LOVED all the attention from a lot of new “fans” too! There were quite a few other dogs in attendance, and he is getting much better at “tolerating” their presence quietly. I’m looking forward to the day when he interacts with dogs as wonderfully as he always does with humans.

          It was almost 3AM when we wended our way home. A lovely change from our usual routine.


          Liked by 1 person

  9. This is such a great piece, M. Like many in this comment thread, I was a teacher, and lifelong student. My personal calendar for most decades was the Academic variety that starts in September. It’s a great time to evaluate your goals, pay attention to what matters. It helps that Autumn is my very favorite season…just a bonus !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Van — it seems that we are of the same tribe. I was introduced to the DayTimers system when I was 18 years old – loose leaf now, so it “begins” whenever I want it too. For those few times I was tempted to try something different, it was *almost always* the Academic variety that lured me away for a year.

      Autumn is my favorite season too – but I don’t think that the weather gods here in Cincinnati have gotten the memo that it’s almost October. It’s predicted to be 90 here today. Huh???

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Christy B says:

    Let’s change the New Year from January to September! It’s a great time for renewal and I like the idea of grabbing a notebook to make new goals or undo bad habits. I’ll have a think over what changes to make as I’ve been feeling a bit tired lately. I’m sending you big hugs for this revitalizing post! Thank you for including my post on bad habits too as I really appreciate it~ Happy Friday, dear Madelyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have good timing for once, Madelyn. On a whim, I started my “new program” at the beginning of September and no slip-ups yet. You’re right that it does get easier as the routine moves from “change” into “habit.” Keeping my fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie reminds us that September marks the beginning of a new year – a great time to establish new habits and goals. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are truly WONDERFUL to reblog my posts, John. Thank you again. Any new goals in YOUR household?

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Fioravanti says:

        Happy to share, Madelyn. Yes, now that my orthotics are working I’m resuming my walking exercise to shed the pounds I gained since April. Not a new goal – a lifelong struggle.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Orthotics? No wonder it has been a struggle – when your feet hurt you get sedentary to avoid discomfort. Then the pounds creep on and it’s even MORE uncomfortable to keep moving.

          My challenge with weight is to watch out once it gets cool enough to use my oven again. Summer’s dreadful heat kills my appetite anyway, so I pick at salads, etc. from late April until October – once the weather remains on the chilly side here and “Indian Summer” is a dim memory.

          But all the yummies that I am able to fix when the house is chilly can pack on the pounds if I’m not careful. Just in time for the holiday goodies to do their worst. Yikes!

          Liked by 1 person

          • John Fioravanti says:

            Tell you what: you bake ’em & I’ll eat ’em! LOL

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’ll send you virtual treats – even better. 🙂 Although all the cooking sites certainly make me crave the goodies they feature, so I’m not sure even THAT helps with keeping weight within reasonable limits.

              I’ve been watching the scale go down v-e-r-y slowly over the last two years – up a pound/down a pound – and still would be happy to shed 5 more pounds or so.

              Stepping on the scale practically every time I go to the bathroom is now habitual – and keeps me at it.

              I know, the gurus say not to do that, but it is what works for me. I gained the weight in the first place when I moved my scale “out of the way.”


            • John Fioravanti says:

              I weigh myself each morning and record it. No wonder I get depressed!! Lol. Virtual treats? I’d probably gain weight from those too!

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah, but it would only be virtual weight – lol.

              I don’t record the numbers. Never, actually, other than to use the little slidey-marker to help me track where I am and where I want to be.

              Then, if the scale went up I’m doubly careful for a few days, and if it went down I use it as wind beneath my wings to stay on the horse (to mix metaphors – unless I’m riding Pegasus, of course).

              It’s the direction, not the velocity!!! 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  13. Jennie says:

    As a teacher, I know that September is the new year. You feel alive and excited, unlike the opposite feeling in January. Perfect time to start fresh and make changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. GP Cox says:

    Funny, now that I think of it, most of my changes have been started in September. This year was upping the amount of times I go to the gym.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Bernadette says:

    I always think of September as the true New Years also. I agree that finding your partner or tribe to help you change any habit is critical. My husband tried to lose weight for years but was only successful in keeping it off when he made a tribe of “gym rats”.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great points here. I always think of September as the beginning of the new year, also, much more than January 1. Why wouldn’t we, when we all started school in September for the first 18-22 years of our lives?!

    My daughter is a teacher and a mom of 3. She watches out for bad habits in her students AND her own kids and tries to nip them in the bud immediately. For instance, her son (diagnosed with ADD) in 2nd grade was already using his class assignments to write like the ‘class clown’ and show a little attitude. She contacted the teacher and asked “don’t let him get away with that. Let’s stop that right NOW.’ Parent-teacher communication and cooperation makes a big difference!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And another Robin Williams bites the dust! 🙂

      Seriously tho’, giving kids good feedback for something BESIDES their attempts to make everybody laugh is key – and does take parent-teacher communication! My teacher friends have ALL told me how much more difficult learning becomes when it is lacking. Thanks for bringing that to everybody’s attention.

      RE: the ADD dx – I tell my clients that in heaven, everybody gets to have ADD!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What a brilliant post. So much to take in. Thank you Madelyn. Thinking positively!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Judith. It does give one a bit to think about. I doubt anybody has been able to secure funding for a September vs. January study, but the anecdotal evidence is great, even judging by the number of New Years posts about not dropping out our resolutions “this year.” Thanks for popping over & ringing in.


  18. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    It is time for a shot in the arm.. or perhaps a kick up the proverbial from Madelyn Griffith-Haynie. This week she is beginning a series on changing our habits. Bad habits drift into our lives in everything we do from driving to relationships.. they are life’s shortcuts. They are both comfortable and sometimes unhealthy. Madelyn uses the start of the new school year to illustrate that change of any kind, whether starting a new year at school, moving home or starting a new job is a great time to ditch some of our bad habits and develop ones that healthier and more productive. I like shortcuts but if it means that a job or a relationship suffers they are not worth the bit of extra time you might have saved! #recommended

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I totally agree with your beautiful article, Madelyn and for you people out there September is the best month of the year, your school starts and everything is great. Each and every tiny detail you have written it so well and so much of encouragement in your words. Thanks for the wonderful share, Madelyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I agree, september is the best time… and I will try to change something (but I will pick only goals I can reach, otherwise it is like a kind of grade retention ;o))) )

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A great article, Madelyn. I had vowed that I would not lose my temper in a very difficult and stressful situation. I was going to remain calm and controlled. I did this successfully for three meetings but yesterday I fell down quite badly. I was very upset about it. I have made a decision this morning that one accident doesn’t result in complete failure so I will plod on and try again.

    Liked by 2 people

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