How to stick at New Year resolutions and make it into an ingrained habit for life
It’s the same story every year. Gym memberships shoot through the roof and the fruit and vegetable aisles in the supermarket are chock full of eager people hoping to make a new start. This rarely lasts very long, by the end of the month more than half of the people who signed up for the gym are never to return. It is a yearly ritual that we all seem to go through together. I am also a victim of this in what most cases turns out to be a waste in energy. We eat healthier then relapse into even worse habits which make the hard work less than useless. I want to look at why this is the case and how to get you out of this vicious circle.
The first thing is to actually make a new year’s resolution. There have been many people advocating that it is futile and pointless to do so. I whole heartedly disagree; the new year brings a great deal of energy as we anticipate this fresh start. If we effectively use this new found energy effectively then it can be very beneficial in our lives. So the first resolution you should make is to make a resolution in the first place! You are already giving up if you decide within yourself “I am never going to keep it, so why bother at all.”
The next step is to make your goals well defined. This mean no vague statements on what you want the end goal to be, you need to lay out exactly what you want. This should be specific and measurable. You want to lose weight, well how much and by when? If you don’t have a specific goal then how will you ever have the satisfaction of reaching it? It might be a good idea to get this in writing which will make you think more clearly about it. At this stage there are two things you can do. You can share what you want with your friends and family, this could provide vital support for you when you are on the stage of faltering and great encouragement when you are doing well. On the other hand I have also found this to be a dangerous thing to do. For many people when you tell people what you intend to do, it can cause a trigger in your brain to think that you are already well on your way. This can lead to a reduction in motivation for some people. Different people can take this in different ways. Some may see it as putting pressure on themselves to do what they said they would do. This is a personal decision which is different for different people.
Once you have clear goals on what you want to achieve, it is time to get into the nitty gritty. You need to convert this long term goal into sizeable chunks. Ideally it should be reduced to something you can do every day. The best way to keep something permanent is to mould it into a habit. If you can make sure you incorporate it into your daily schedule then within a few months it should become and ingrained habit and you will never have to think about it again. This is the ultimate aim of what we are trying to do.
It is important to record what you are doing every day. Keeping a record can be a great way of motivating yourself; if you have kept a string of good days for 20 days then that pressure to keep the streak going will help you on the 21st day. It is important not to be too harsh on yourself if you do slip up but try to make up for it and keep going. It can be very satisfying to see ticks next to every day for a whole month.
Now all you have to do is stick at it as long as you can!
Here are a few words from Churchill to motivate you on your way!
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
“Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal, it is the strength to continue which matters.”
It is really hard to create new habits; a better bet is to modify existing habits. You can draw yourself a habit loop for something you currently do and then modify it to make the change you want to see. First identify the trigger that sets you off, then the action which you do and the reward you receive for the action. The trick is to alter the action in the loop to something else which is closer to what you want to achieve. For example, if you get a cookie every day at 3pm then the time is your trigger, the eating of the cookie is the action and the reward might be some time away from work. You could go for a walk instead and still get the same reward, and be healthier. This is much more likely to be successful than “I am going to wake up at 5 every morning and run 10k.”
If you want to know more about habits then I would definitely suggest reading “The power of Habit, why we do what we do” I found it to be very interesting and useful in understanding why I do what I do.
Don’t make too many resolutions; keep it to as few as possible. You want to focus your energy on the task at hand achieve something meaningful rather than spread your effort too thin so you get nothing done in the end. This year I have decided on just one resolution as I want to focus my effort solely on this and make sure I accomplish it. I feel if I had many then my resilience will be depleted too quickly.
© 2014 @ Dalriada Books Ltd