Pursuing Uncomfortable Blog and Updates Episode 20: Pursuing Healthier Habits with Jason Harwood

Episode 20: Pursuing Healthier Habits with Jason Harwood


🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

🎶 Episode Intro: Hello friends. Welcome back to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. I am your host, Melissa Ebken. How much of your day is done by habit? Any guesses? I bet it's a lot more than you would expect or realize. Today I have a fun guest. His name is Jason Harwood, and he is going to talk to us all about habits, what they mean in our lives, how they can help us attain what we want in life, and how they can help us to be the person we want to be. He has a step-by-step process for building and creating new habits so that we can have a life that we love to live. So I'm glad to introduce you today to Jason Harwood. 🎶


Melissa Ebken  0:05  
Good morning, Jason. How are you today? Welcome to the podcast.

Jason Harwood  0:10  
I am great. Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be a part of Pursuing Uncomfortable that's, it seems like we should be sitting on like, a nail bed or something.

Melissa Ebken  0:23  
Well, it's not about being uncomfortable. It's about recognizing the things that make us uncomfortable, so that we can lean into it and just knock it out of the park. There you go. Thank you for setting setting me up that way. I appreciate that.

Jason Harwood  0:40  
Yeah, I am excited to be here. 

Melissa Ebken  0:42  
Speaking of uncomfortable. You have a lovely family. You have seven children. And you live in Idaho, I would imagine you have some experience with uncomfortable?

Jason Harwood  0:56  
Yeah, there's always something. Somebody asked me the other day, they said, Do you ever have a night where you don't have something going on? And I said, No, not that I can think of so. And, you know, the fun thing is with kids like experience with one child does very little to prepare you for the challenges of the next child. That's what I've learned, its like my oldest is graduated now. And he's off doing some fun things in his life. And then my next I got three kids in high school, and all of them represent just totally different challenges than what my oldest did. And I guess like, the only thing you can prepare for is to just be flexible and try to be loving.

Melissa Ebken  1:51  
It's almost like they are unique individual human beings. 

Jason Harwood  1:54  
Oh, my word. Yeah. 

Melissa Ebken  1:56  
So just one quick question. When was the last time that every surface in your house was not sticky?

Jason Harwood  2:03  
Oh, my goodness. I it maybe five minutes after we moved into the house. My wife is and she is meticulously clean. But it's a never ending. Race to try to stay ahead of this counter and this bathroom. And what is that on? Who made lunch? Yeah, absolutely. Never ending? 

Melissa Ebken  2:30  
Absolutely. So I would imagine in an environment like that, that finding habits and routines would be a real benefit.

Jason Harwood  2:40  
Yeah, it does give me a sense of progress, I think, because it's so easy to get wrapped up and to allow everything else to dictate your schedule, everything else to dictate what you do in a day, everything else to kind of dictate what you focus on. And so for me, identifying some core characteristics. And building habits in those areas, allows me to see progress over time, in things that really matter significantly to me, so that I don't just kind of waste away a day or a week, or a month or a year, chasing after the insignificant

Melissa Ebken  3:27  
and you just happen to be an expert on, creating healthy and happy habits.

Jason Harwood  3:34  
Mostly through Yeah, study and research and practical application.

Melissa Ebken  3:41  
So how do we get started talking about habits?

Jason Harwood  3:45  
Yeah, the so the fascinating thing about habits is is research shows about 60 to 90% of your day is already habit.

Melissa Ebken  3:56  
Stop it.

Jason Harwood  3:58  
Yeah. At least more than half of your day is habit. And really when you start thinking through like your morning routine is likely pretty consistent. Your evening routine is likely pretty consistent. Your shopping habits, eating habits. Most people say I don't have an exercise habit. That's a habit. The shows that we watch the how much time we spend in what is the E to E ratio entertainment to education. That's a habit right? So we just consistently human beings are actually pretty good at falling into consistent patterns and into consistent habits. So the challenge really is to be proactive in crafting these habits in a way that lead you to what is most important because what tends to have is is we start creating habits around what's easiest, not what's most important, because two things, one, your brain wants consistent and two your brain wants easy. So we find the easiest path. 

Melissa Ebken  5:15  
I'm still reeling over that percentage that you gave while ago. And when you're going through that list, I gotta say, I think maybe I'm a little higher in that percentage than what I thought I was shocked at first to hear that so much of my day might be a habit. And then as you're going through all of those things, I'm thinking, oh, man, I think maybe most of my day is a habit.

Jason Harwood  5:40  
It's yeah. And because, you know, somebody asked, Oh, where do you go grocery shopping? Pretty much the same place. And in fact, you could probably like, map out your course at the grocery store. I know, for me, and with kids and things. It's a challenge. But man, if you if we were to actually write down and track what we have for dinner every night, the consistency with which you'd see the same things pop up. I mean, it's just the Seven Ways To Make Chicken every week.

Melissa Ebken  6:10  
I'm always talking to friends. Like, okay, we are in such a rut. I need new ideas. For dinners, yeah.

Jason Harwood  6:17  
And then we'll make it once and it's good. And then never get back to it. Because then it's, you know, we only have 30 minutes till dinnertime, and I know I can throw together some chicken enchiladas quickly, 

Melissa Ebken  6:29  
Its one extreme or the other. It's never have it again, or get into a place where you can handle having this again for the rest of your life.

Jason Harwood  6:36  
Yes, yeah. Yeah. So yeah. And that's the real challenge, then is we say, Man, I'm, a lot of people use that word rut. That's where I found myself, I found myself in kind of a rut of the rut that I was, I found myself in most was kind of chasing. It was this idea. I, as I look back on my life, I think it came from when I was a kid, because when I was a kid, popularity was very important to me, I wanted to be in the popular crowd. And I never was, and and like, I grew up with a pretty cushy upbringing. So I'm, you know, most people would look at my upbringing and go, Oh, my gosh, you had an easy, and I had it very, very easy, when the most challenging thing you're looking for is, I want to be in the in crowd, and I'm not, then many of your life's problems are already solved. But then as I got older, I think that changed into this kind of ambition to think if I could just get a little bit bigger house, if I could just have a little bit nicer car, if I could just promote at work if I could just, you know, make sure my kids looked right or acted Right. Or, you know, you start projecting these things out on your kids and, and pretty soon man that grind. Just far away

Melissa Ebken  8:00  
But you're really describing kind of the American dream. Yeah. have success. And we want to keep building on that and we want it reflected in our children.

Jason Harwood  8:09  
Yeah, the challenge is, is I think the definition of success because I was, as a kid, I was chasing after popularity, which was a somewhat unattainable aspiration. Then I started chasing after more material evidences of success. Until I shifted and said, No, maybe what really matters is like, what's my weekly or daily habit around charity? What's my weekly or daily habit around? Being a person of integrity or person of gratitude? How do I develop humility in my life, and all of those are built off of the foundation. I call them habits in health, wealth, and self, because you kind of do have to have some level of health and vitality in order to consistently be successful, or at least feel that you're successful. And same with wealth. I mean, you don't have to be rich, but you have to be managing your money properly. And then you can really start looking and saying, Okay, another, like, like having a four wheeler isn't going to solve my problem. It's not gonna make me happier. But man, if I strung together a bunch of days where I did a single act of charity every day, now, I'm feeling much different about my life.

Melissa Ebken  9:36  
Wow, that is, that is a powerful mindset change, isn't it?

Jason Harwood  9:41  
Yeah. And it took me a few decades to just, you know, those nights of, of just laying there and it was kind of that becoming uncomfortable where I just eventually got uncomfortable enough that I said, this is not the life that I want I'm not. I'm not feeling like I'm, like maximizing my potential. That's, you know, it's not about how nice of a car you have or whatever it's, are you living up to your beliefs? Are you living up to your belief about yourself and what you can accomplish? And for me, it was a long series of sad days and difficult nights before I finally said, You know what, I got to chase something different. And build some, and then that all started, Okay, gotta build some different habits.

Melissa Ebken  10:38  
Well, you know, when you talk about habits, in my mind, I think about ways to make a process more efficient, or life more efficient. But what I hear you really saying is, habits really add quality and purpose to our lives?

Jason Harwood  10:54  
Yeah, they can when we're intentional about it. Because habits are simply the consistency with which you do something. If you do something, once it's not really a habit, when you do it in a in a consistent way, then it starts to become a habit. And it's the cumulation of all of these daily habits that starts to craft, and can really change your character. And as you start to change your character, then you really start to change your life satisfaction and your kind of vision of what happiness looks like, and how you can achieve it.

Melissa Ebken  11:38  
Well, how do we get started? 

Jason Harwood  11:40  
Yeah, here's the thing. So you mentioned the American dream. And it's funny, because the creation of habits actually works counter culturally in a couple of ways. Because whenever anybody says, Okay, what do I get started on habits, the first thing I say is, is what's the smallest thing you can do? And we kind of live in a Go Big or Go Home Society. Like, I got to, I really got to do something big and significant to make a difference. And then you look and say, Oh, yeah. Habits, though, are small. The reason for that is, is that big things require motivation. And motivation is one of the least dependable human emotions. Because, yeah, you know, this, right? Like, some days you feel like it some days you don't. And, for me, I feel like exercising in the morning, usually starting about 8pm. Like at 8pm. I'm like, okay, yeah, I'm really gonna exercise tomorrow morning, I got a lot of positive emotion about it, I get a lot of positive motivation for morning exercise at 8pm until the alarm goes off at 530. And suddenly, I have far less motivation. So but when you start small, you're no longer reliant on motivation. Now you can start being reliant on consistency and pattern, which we're better at. So anytime somebody says, okay, you know, how do I start a habit? What's the smallest thing you can do? If you want to start exercising more? Just start setting a habit of putting on your exercise shoes once a day? Because it don't take a lot of motivation.

Melissa Ebken  13:26  
Yeah. Are you telling us that discipline is a higher or to prioritize discipline over motivation? Is that what I hear you saying, Jason?

Jason Harwood  13:35  
yeah, that is so good, I love that that is a great line. If you want to start being a more grateful person, just write down one to two things you're grateful for every day, just because that doesn't take a whole lot of motivation. If you want to, or just text one person a day, something that you are grateful to I do this with humility, too. I, I make it a point to reach out to one person a week, every week just to tell them how much I appreciate their contribution to something I'm doing in my life. And it helps me think through in my process of okay, who is contributing, because sometimes I get caught up thinking, Well, I'm doing this and I'm doing this and I'm doing this and I've accomplished this, and I've done this and I've got this and then I stop and think well wait, who who contributed to that? Who helped me? If you want to start having better finances, it's real simple. The easiest thing to do is just start tracking every day. Every expense, just a small thing. Just write down or, you know, at the end of the day, just look at your bank account real quick and track everything you spent. So the first tip is start small. We oftentimes try to go big. We say I'm going to exercise for 30 minutes, I'm going to save a bunch of my paycheck. I'm going to do some grand act of charity I'm going to you know Go outside of my , I'm going to be completely disciplined on not eating after eight o'clock or whatever it is, and we set these big aspirations. And the key is, is to set a big goal, and then scale it way back into the habit that will get you there. It's great to have a big goal. But it's the small consistent habits that will get you there.

Melissa Ebken  15:30  
Wow, that's powerful stuff there. You're so right, you're so right.

Jason Harwood  15:36  
So yeah, step one is make it small. And then you mentioned the other one. Step two is make it easy. Because, yeah, we all like easy. I joke around with people and say, okay, so if you want to exercise more, your small habit is put on your workout clothes every day to make it easier, just sleep in your workout clothes. Because then you wake up and roll out of bed and you say, Oh, I'm done. My habit for today was to put on my workout clothes, I've already got them on. Now many days, you'll then be more likely to exercise there might at the start, there's going to be quite a few days where you say, and now I'm going to change into my I'm going to take off my workout clothes, take a shower, change into my work clothes and go to work. Okay, that's fine, because you did this small thing that you need to do and make it easy. For me, the most efficient way to make something easy is to connect it with a different habit that you're already doing. So we were we were lucky we got a COVID dog, many people,

Melissa Ebken  16:41  
I think I've heard of that breed is that a new breed you got at Westminster.

Jason Harwood  16:46  
As we were all locked up together, a lot of people made irrational decisions, and ours was to buy a dog. And as you would probably suspect, that person in the household who has the 5:30am responsibility of letting the dog out of the crate to go outside to go to the bathroom. Despite many assurances from all seven of the children, they were going to be so helpful,

Melissa Ebken  17:08  
No, you're not telling me that the kids are unreliable, when it comes to taking care of pets.

Jason Harwood  17:16  
We're lucky if one of them feeds the dog. But so that falls to me. So I could have been kind of angry and upset and resentful that I had to get up at 530 every morning to let the dog out. And I decided I'm going to take this a different direction. So what I decided to do is I said, Okay, what's something I want to do every morning without fail, because that dog has to go out every morning without fail. And so I just took a behavior that I wanted for me, it was writing down three things that I'm grateful for in my little gratitude journal. And so I just take my little gratitude journal, and I set it down on the table next to the door, I let the dog out, I sit down, I write my Three Things by then she's usually scratching at the door to come back in. And I've just made it very, very easy to be consistent. Because I tie it to something I'm already doing. And I mentioned much of your life is already habit. So you probably already brush your teeth consistently. I do. Yes. Well, yeah, that's good. Take a new habit and say, every time I brush my teeth, I am going to many people have a pretty consistent whether it's coffee, or hot chocolate, or water, or a Diet Coke or whatever, most people have a pretty consistent drinking habit in the morning, not alcohol, but drinking a pretty consistent drinking some people. So just say, okay, when I get my first, you know, I'm going to grab my water in the morning, I'm going to grab my diet coke, I'm going to grab my coffee, and then I am going to and take something that you're already consistently doing. The minute I get into bed at night, I am going to the the second I get into my car coming home from work, I am going to and so you take something that you're already doing attach to something you want make it very small. And suddenly, you've just knocked out two of the three things that you have to have for habit which is small and easy.

Melissa Ebken  19:18  
That makes a lot of sense.

Jason Harwood  19:22  
And, and so one thing you can do if you're if you're thinking through this is just start jotting down or maybe monitor your day and just start jotting down what's what's something I do every day, write down three things you do every day, and then just say, Okay, after that I'm going to after that I'm going to after that. I'm going to

Melissa Ebken  19:37  
You know, I already know this. So I'm going to ask the question that I already know the answer to Jason, do you have a handout for us that we can download that would have this already outlined and make it even easier for us to get started in this practice? 

Jason Harwood  19:58  
Yeah, so thank you for asking that Melissa. Yeah, all of this is in. Yeah, if you go to thejasonharwood.com, there's what's called the Happily Ever Habits Guide. And it walks through identifying an area of your life where you want to improve, helps you pick a small habit in that area encourages you to do exactly what I just said, say, Okay, I'm already doing this. And so now I'm going to start adding that. And then the last one that that will really drive it home. Well, there's two, one is to track it. And there's a tracker where you can mark down every day what your habit is. And then you can check the box and you feel the adrenaline rush of checking a box. Everybody loves to like, Oh, yes I did it. And the last one is to celebrate your small wins. So particularly early, I would let my dog out. I would write down my three things. And then I just kind of fist pump and give myself a yes. Just a yes. And you feel better. When you do that.

Melissa Ebken  21:00  
I could imagine it would be appropriate to do a little happy dance. 

Jason Harwood  21:03  
Yeah. Yeah. If everybody listening right now, just fist pump and go, yes, you'll immediately feel better. And it is actually physiological because it will release dopamine in your brain. And that's the feel good chemical in your brain. And you'll go Oh, that feels good. This really helps to drive it home because your brain goes, Wait a minute, you just did something new, which I don't really like. But you didn't die. It didn't cause me significant pain. And in fact, now I feel better because you celebrate you go yes, you celebrate and your brain goes, Oh, maybe I should do that again tomorrow, and it, it takes the physiology of your brain saying your brain wants consistent, easy. And you start to Okay, brain look, it's not that hard. And it's it's not that difficult, and it's not killing you. And when you celebrate you, you re emphasize and really deepen the kind of internal mental connection to say you should do that again. So the Happily Ever Habits Guide will walk you through that.

Melissa Ebken  22:04  
Excellent. And I know from my days in biology of I was a biologist, that that part of your brain that processes habits also processes emotions. So whenever you mix emotions and habits together, they are going to stick.

Jason Harwood  22:21  
Yeah. Which is why it's so fascinating. Because we all have our thing that we do to deal with emotion. For so many of us. It's eating like I'm an emotional eater, for sure. When I've had a bad day, like, oh my gosh, watch out because I'm going to barrel through four bowls of cereal for sure. Before I'm like, okay, stop that. And so sometimes it's just yeah, creating the alternative to what you're going to do. Knowing that some of those difficult things happen. Things like meditation, things like exercise, some deep breathing exercises are a good way to deal with some of those negative emotions in a way that's slightly more healthy than Captain Crunch.

Melissa Ebken  23:02  
I have had a blast talking to you today, Jason and I know a few habits that I want to start in my life. And I'm going to download your guide, I'm going to have that link made real easy for everyone else that wants to download it, it's going to be right there in the episode description, they can click on the link to go to your website and also in the description, they can click on a link and download your guide. Any last thoughts that you want to give us?

Jason Harwood  23:30  
Are you gonna make it? Yeah, you're gonna make it small Melissa, your habit.

Melissa Ebken  23:34  
I am. I'm gonna make it meaningful. I really love the mindset habits. And I have a practice of, of practicing gratitude. And I have a practice for for a lot of different things. But when you were speaking earlier about humility and about acknowledging others, I want to form a habit of acknowledging others in my life, because in the work that I do, it depends on so many other people in their input. And I don't know that I acknowledge them well for all that they do. So that's a habit I definitely want to curate in my life

Jason Harwood  24:11  
There you go. I love it. My favorite quote about humility, I'll just end with this is CS Lewis. And he said, humility isn't thinking less of yourself. It's just thinking of yourself less. So you celebrate like, Yes, I did that. And some people helped me and I should acknowledge the people who helped me it's not diminishing yourself and saying, Oh, well, I'm not very good. No, you're great. And people helped you.

Melissa Ebken  24:38  
Yeah, for sure. We can't do this all alone. That's that's a fact. Yeah. Its a lot more fulfilling, when there are others with us and sharing how much we appreciate it. appreciate their efforts. I think that would be a real gift.

Jason Harwood  24:56  
Yeah. Okay, well, I am excited to To see and hopefully we can connect and you can let me know how your new habit is going

Melissa Ebken  25:04  
I would love to. Alright Jason, thank you so much. And if anybody has any questions for Jason or want someone to be a partner with him or an accountability presence as they're going through this find him at thejasonharwood.com

Podcast Outro: 🎶 Melissa Ebken  0:00  
Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶 


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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so thankful that you found your way here. 

I support people who are ready to lean into and overcome difficult challenges, situations, and experiences in their lives. I have been a pastor for 20+ years and have helped, guided, and supported many as they have grown through life's ups and downs. 

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