Three Habits, Three Ways: Part 2

We’re already halfway through January – that was fast!

How are those goals going for you? Are you sailing through self-actualized bliss? Are you feeling a little stuck?

Recently I wrote about how I built a habit of reading throughout 2018, and how that allowed me to read 100 books during the year.

Today I’d like to talk about a different goal, and a very different type of habit that helped me reach it.

I decided at the beginning of 2018 that I wanted to work out three times a week.

I wanted to prioritize my health. I know working out is good for me, but I’ve also created a habit of putting exercise on the back-burner when I’m busy with new projects and ideas.

…which, if you know me, is always.

This was going to be a different type of challenge than my first goal, I needed to employ some new strategies.

This time it wasn’t accountability or bragging rights (hey, 100 books is a big deal!) that helped me turn this goal into a habit.

This time it was stickers. Ninja Turtle stickers to be exact.

I needed to make this habit-building process fun, rather than focusing just on the result or the glory. I knew that if I didn’t have a positive, creative way to motivate myself I would continue to favor work over workouts.

I discovered exercise later than some – while in design school. Getting on an elliptical was one of the only things that helped me shake off the pressure and the stress of design studio.

But when I started my own business, my good exercise habits slid away.

This is me we’re talking about: a reforming perfectionist who won’t settle until the project I’m working on is completed to its highest level. Stack up a couple of deadlines and I slip into ‘Marathon Mia’ mode in which everything disappears except one deadline hoop to jump through.

And then then next. And the next.

I know exercise should be a priority. But I needed a strategy to build the habit.

Fast forward to one day when my partner and I were chatting with a kindergarten teacher we had met about the things we missed from elementary school.

Remember glitter? And those novelty erasers? And stickers (glitter stickers)??

And sticker charts – those ones where you get a sticker for all the good things you do. Like cleaning up your toys. Remember that?

Those kindergarten teachers are smart. Sticker charts are a great way to teach kids how rewarding it feels to achieve your goals, and that positive feedback is a great way to keep good habits going.

After plenty of reminiscing, I concluded that I wasn’t ready to leave this glittering trick behind. “I want a sticker chart!” I declared. And so my partner and I agreed to make each other sticker charts.

I’d get one for working out during the week, and he’d track it for me. If I got three stickers in a work week – proving I’d prioritized my health over my perfectionist tendencies – I’d get the big prize: A super nifty TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES sticker!!!!! Oh yeah.


Now, this sounds really silly, right? It’s just a sticker.

But it works.

I’ve been doing it for months now. It’s validating to have someone else notice that I’m hitting my goals. It feels so good to have him put the sticker on, and to see those rows filling up one by one. And yeah, those Ninja Turtles stickers are pretty rad too.

I know that a habit is really sticking (oh yeah, I went there) when I find it integrated into my day-to-day decision making. The other day I found myself trying to schedule a coffee date and pushing it off a week because I knew that with my travel schedule that week I would need an extra morning for my workout.

On the surface I was thinking, “nope, gotta get that sticker.”

But what I was really telling myself was, “yes, I’d love to spend time with you, but not at the expense of my health. So it’ll have to be next week.”



What’s a way that you can incorporate fun and creativity into your goals? Comment below!



Hi I'm Maya

Mia Scharphie , career coach, headshot

I’m a career coach and strategist with a secret power (I mean, past career) as a designer. I love road trips, graphic novels and helping people like you design the career you love on your own terms.