It seems fitting that we should reflect upon how to improve ourselves the very next day after we throw caution to the wind and party like it’s 1999, doesn’t it? I mean, New Year tends to be the time to reflect upon how we can improve ourselves and every year we start off determined to leave our old habits behind and yet, somehow it never seems to work out for us. Instead, our New Year’s resolutions end up lasting about as long as snow that falls in Florida.
As well-intentioned as we may be, of the 45-55% of us who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of us meet our goals, and yet we remain eternally hopeful that this year will be different, even in the face of contradictory evidence and past experience. The good news is that it really, truly can be different this year. We just need to approach our resolutions differently.
For example, one of the reasons that many of us don’t reach our goals is that we commit to too many resolutions at once. Did you know that when you focus on making a single change you are 85% likely to be successful, but when you make two changes at once your odds of success drop down to 35%? That’s essentially the difference between success and failure right there, so why not increase your chances by narrowing it down to a single goal?
let’s start now by pigging the one goal that will have the biggest impact upon your health or your happiness in the coming year. If you are stuck for ideas, take a look at the top five New Year’s resolutions from 2015, listed in order. They are to:
- Stay healthy and fit
- Lose weight
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Spend less, save more
- Spend more time with friends and family
So let’s say that you picked out one area to focus on. Well, now we need to take it one step further. See, most of us can easily picture where we want to end up, but we rarely define exactly how we are going to get there and in order to accomplish our goal, we need to map out the route first. We need to define the ‘who, what, when, where, how and why’. So grab a piece of paper and articulate your answer to these six questions. Don’t forget to define specific actions and make them measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive (SMART).
Now we need to make it to your goal, you need to ensure that you actually follow through on the behaviours you just defined above, which is the tricky part. To give your new behaviour any chance of long-term success, you need to repeat that behaviour, daily, for at least three weeks, and ideally longer. In fact, research on habit formation from the University College London showed that although it takes about 66 days for a habit to become truly automatic (which means you do it without much forethought and without much effort), it’s the early days of daily habit repetition that give us the largest boost in automaticity. So the old adage, practice makes perfect, really is based on science.
Now, to further increase of chances of success, you want to create a path of least resistance. You can do this by setting up your environment in a way that makes it super easy for you to succeed. For example, if you put all of your junk food in a box in the basement, and a big bowl of fruit and veggies on your counter, you will be more likely to reach for the fruit and veggies than to walk all the way down to the basement to grab some junk food. Or, if you take the batteries out of the remote and put your workout clothes on the couch, you will be that much more likely to go work out than to sit down and watch TV. So, set up your environment for success and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals.
In addition to creating a path of least resistance, one more trick I will share with you is to create a trigger to initiate the desired behaviour. One of the best ways to do this is to anchor your desired behaviour to an existing behaviour. For example, if you brush your teeth every morning morning, use that as a call to action to remind yourself to drink a glass of water. Or, use making your bed in the morning as a reminder to lay out your workout clothes so that when you get home and see your clothes, you are more likely to go exercise.
Finally, it also helps to reward yourself for your positive behaviour because you will be that much more likely to repeat it if it made you feel good. Your reward can be in the form of a mini celebration, like saying “Booyah!” out loud, or doing a first pump in the air (don’t laugh, it works!) or in the form of a physical reward, like putting a dollar in a jar (to eventually buy yourself something you want) each time you repeat the desired behaviour. Either way, when a behaviour makes us feel good, we are inclined to repeat it.
So, let me know if you are making an y New Year’s resolutions this year and whether you plan on trying some of the tips above. Make sure to check back after 21 days and share your progress with me! Wishing you all a fabulous 2016.
- http://www.johnrampton.com/21-days-form-new-habit/ –