If you find yourself yet again setting New Year’s resolutions you suspect you’ll break before you even start, read on.
Often in the New Year, we overcommit to resolutions, trying to change many aspects of our lives at once, be it health, financial, education or relationship-related.
Change habits that stick
However, psychologically it seems that we can only change one to two behaviours at a time to form long-term habits.
Turning our entire life ‘upside down’ and trying to change many aspects of our life at once is a sure-fire way to failure.
A better approach would be to choose one new habit to change in January, then another in February and then another in March, and so on.
It may not seem as epic or Instagram worthy. However, the point is for it to be achievable and sustainable long-term.
So, you could aim to exercise a certain number of times a week in January, reduce your takeaway budget in February by making an additional meal at home, then start Sunday prep for more nutritious snacks throughout the week in March, and so on in setting intentions.
It is the slow, incremental changes that ‘stick’, not the life overhaul.
Health habits may not be your priority
Furthermore, what you eat, or your health may not be your top priority in the New Year.
We have been led to believe that our weight, diet or health ought to be amongst our resolutions. However, this can cause us to force change, which doesn’t necessarily originate from within us but from external expectations.
Unfortunately, if we don’t truly and deeply want something, we are unlikely to stick to it.
So, rather than automatically putting diet or health on your list of resolutions, explore what health behaviours, if any, you’d like to change this year.
Determine, what habits, if any, you want to form this year
Let’s be honest with ourselves about the habits we want to change without declaring what is commonly considered New Year’s resolutions or without thinking we have to change one thing in every aspect of our lives.
Instead, think of what are priorities for you. It could be forming a sleep routine, giving yourself some dedicated ‘me time’ each week, trying a new hobby or learning a new skill, taking your lunch break to rest. There may be health benefits, but that doesn’t need to be the primary intent.
Consistency is key to forming new habits
Once you commit to something, show up consistently to implement it or attach it to other activities you do every day.
However, do so without expectation or attachment to the outcome. It is keeping one eye on the end goal that can cause us to doubt ourselves and wonder if it is worth all the effort. It is keeping our eye on the end goal that causes us to second guess ourselves or push ourselves too hard that we burn out.
I promise you; I often struggle to find the middle ground between consistently working hard and giving up on my writing projects. However, whatever the outcome of the books I publish, I know that what is required is for me to write, to show up and do the work.
I believe we ought to treat aspiring towards goals more like mastering a skill, such as a sport or musical instrument. We need to show up and do the thing but know that we won’t see results overnight, or even within days, weeks, months, years or ever!
This being the case, I find it helpful to shift my focus to how a change makes me feel, physically, mentally and emotionally. Then I can use this feeling as a measure of success and to affirm my continuation with a change.
For example, if I don’t write, I feel angsty and tense. However, when I write, I feel joyful and energised. I feel more able to focus on my other tasks throughout the day without the same anxious feeling. It is this feeling, not the outcome of my writing, that keeps me writing.
What habits would you like for form this year?
Me, I intend to take longer lunch breaks and take the time to really relax, either meditating or reading a book for half an hour after eating. I find it is easy to scroll through social media or think of what needs to be done for the afternoon. However, I intend to take the time to disengage so that I can come back to my work with fresh and focused attention. Let’s see how it goes.
I’d love to hear what is the number one thing you’d like to focus on this year – let me know in the comments below. And I’ll keep you updated in my e-newsletter.