Creating New Habits by Pamela Mirabelli


Pamela Mirabelli serves as the Residence Life Coordinator for the Historic Horseshoe and International House at Maxcy College at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Originally from New Jersey, Pam received a BA in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical/Counseling from The College of NJ and a Master of Education in Children’s Literature from Penn State. Prior to starting at Carolina, Pam has previously worked at The College of NJ, Penn State, The School of American Ballet, and Seton Hall University. In her spare time, Pam enjoys yoga, reading, the beach, traveling, visiting friends, and spending time with her adopted Italian Greyhound Mix Stormy.


The light at the end of the tunnel is almost here…the end of the academic year! While our students are off to their summer jobs, internships, vacations, etc, we as Student Affairs professionals are enjoying the peace and quiet only summer can bring to a college campus. It can be tempting to just focus on the countdown to your summer vacation or work on plans for the Fall. However, I want to suggest a third option…focusing on you! This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a more regulated weekly work schedule and create a new habit or two that will stick with you when the craziness of Fall 2014 begins. As it takes approximately between 20-40 days to create a habit, below are a list of 7 strategies which have helped me to create new habits.


  1. Take a moment and self-reflect. Before embarking on any journey, you need a destination. What are your interests? What are you passionate about? Do you want to return to a past hobby or start a new one? Having a list will allow you to have a general guide of where your summer may take you.

  2. Google your city/surrounding area/state. You may be like me and are new to your institution/city or you could have lived in the same area for 15 years. Regardless of what best describes you, google search “Things to Do” and “Summer Events” in your particular area based on your interests. You may discover a summer festival you never heard of, a restaurant which serves your favorite food, or a weekly open mic night at your local coffee shop.

  3. Prioritize your gathered information. Now take a step back, look at the information gathered, and decide what you want to incorporate into your life. Is it the weekly cooking class or going to the gym? Is it going to the local farmer’s market or attending the book club at the library? It’s great to have options, but having too many can be overwhelming. By picking the top 5-7, some of which may only be a monthly occurrence, will allow you to focus your efforts and not feel overwhelmed.

  4. Choose a date. You have your top options, but now is the time to commit. For some, like a festival or concert, you are constricted by the dates of the event. For others, like a restaurant or hiking trail, you have the flexibility to fit it into your schedule as you see fit. By setting a date you now have a deadline to meet and you are more likely to actually go to the gym or buy the festival ticket.

  5. Set yourself up for success. If you know you are a night person, it is probably not the best idea to say you will get up at 630 AM every day to work out. Be honest and true to yourself. It is okay to admit working out at 8 PM works best for you, just remember come September will this time conflict with your weekly student staff meeting? Will a 7 PM work out time be a better fit? The summer is the perfect time to refine these little intricacies so the habit fits your lifestyle.

  6. Find an accountability buddy. Sharing your journey with others not only makes what could be a difficult task (like going to the gym or taking your dog to obedience classes) more fun, it also builds in someone to hold you accountable. You can have someone local for your daily reminder, in my case my supervisor to remind me I need to take Stormy to obedience classes. You can also have someone removed from the situation, like my friend at UConn who will give me her honest outside perspective and feedback when I attempt to complain or procrastinate on a commitment I am unsure about.

  7. Pause and Reflect Prior to August training or Welcome Week beginning, take a minute to reflect back on your summer experiences. What activities did you enjoy and will continue? What were ones you were happy to try, but won’t be doing again anytime soon? Before the craziness begins, you want to make sure you have the habits in place that will reenergize and sustain you versus continuing ones that are taxing or unfulfilling.

At the end of the day you are doing this for you in hopes to create a better work/life balance. You may not like everything you try or have some bumps along the way, but taking the first step is half the battle. You may find an unexpected new interest or you may reaffirm why you and nature need to continue to stay separated. In any case, have fun, smile, and here’s to finding a new habit (or 2!) for you!


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