Image by: Anna
By Avril Reyes
It’s easy to get carried away with new year’s resolutions and make plans to do away with all your bad habits at once and basically conquer the world. That would be awesome! But the truth is that some habits take a little longer than a night to change, and sometimes when we don’t see significant results quickly enough we tend to think nothing is happening.
Enter the part of resolution making where we drop them. You can compare any new habit to the process that it requires to lose five pounds. Changing requires not only daily attention and action, but a commitment to patience during the process. Here are some ways to create habits in the new year that you’ll actually stick with.
#1) Consider Quotas When You Set Goals
If your new year’s resolutions are more on the scale of accomplishing larger life goals, the best way to stick with them is to set smaller goal posts, or quotas along the way. If getting a new car was a goal, you would maybe want to open a savings account specifically for the plan, start researching the pros and cons of car types, and set dates to go test drive.
You most likely wouldn’t just walk out the door and end up with the perfect vehicle. Of course that’s possible, but compare it to something like finding a husband and things can get a little more complicated. Having quotas along the way can actually get you to your goal faster, but they also make sure to give you a sense of progress that will make you want to stick with it.
“For me, cracking the code on flossing was to put the floss right by the toothbrush, and to commit to myself that I would floss one tooth — only one tooth — every time after I brushed. I could floss them all if I wanted to, but the commitment was just one tooth. [This works] because I was training the behavior. Maybe once every few weeks, I’d only actually floss one tooth, but a majority of the time I’d end up flossing them all.” -Stanford Psychologist B.J. Fogg
#2) Make Linking Plans
Another way to cement habits into place is to make a linked plan of action. When you link plans together, you can go from the random thought of wanting to live in a tidier home to the linked plan of “when I eat dinner, I will always put my plates directly into the dishwasher.” Or whatever else habits would be helpful to pick up along the way to ultimately help to keep your home a cleaner place to live in. The link not only draws the habit into reality, but it also serves as a reminder. Next time you eat, you might not feel like putting the dishes away but you will probably think about it.
#3) Do it Even When You Don’t Want to
Perhaps the most obvious but hard to stick with part of the process is to simply do the habit even if you don’t feel like it. If a habit is very hard for you to stick with, or if you have a lot of resistance around it, you might want to set up an “if, then” scenario. If I’m too tired too go for a run, then I’ll start with twenty pushups in the living room.
If I don’t want to practice playing my guitar, I’ll sit and listen to a song I’d love to know how to play. These things can be triggers to push you over in the threshold of just doing it anyway. Once your workout clothes are on and you get your blood pumping a bit you might realize you would be better off just going for the run after all. (But you already knew that.)
#4) Pay Attention to Where You Start to Fall Apart
To avoid completely dumping a goal because it’s just too complicated to reach, think about the smaller areas where your progress is getting derailed. Is your gym really annoying to get to and difficult to park at? Are you keeping tons of potato chips in the house but trying to diet around them?
Did you try to cut out coffee cold turkey after being on a four cup a day regular schedule? It’s pretty obvious to see why these habits might not stick. Try tapering down the coffee instead of shocking your body into submission overnight, getting the junk food out of the house if you don’t want to eat it, or finding a new place of fitness that doesn’t drive you completely insane.
#5) Make Peace With Repetition
To put it basically, not all habit building is exactly thrilling. The end result might be, like when you’re rocking your most fit body ever, but the treadmill visits in between are not always going to be unique. In fact, a lot of habit building is simply repeating the right behaviors over and over again. Just go with it and trust that all of that repetition is actually taking you to the place you want to be.
Forming routines can not only help you stick with a habit, but it can also save up some of the mind energy you use trying to deal with it. If you know going to yoga on Wednesdays is a part of the routine, you won’t have to worry about whether it’s going to happen or not or how it will go once you get there.
Do you have an easy time keeping your new years resolutions or a difficult time? Let us know if you have any good ones to share!