Did you create New Year’s resolutions? I try to, but inevitably, I’m not the greatest about sticking to them. In looking back, I’ve realized I bail on resolutions because they don’t become habits. They’re “oh, I should do this,” not “oh, I will do this”-type activities. So, as we ease into 2014, I’m focusing less on resolutions and more on building habits. I outlined my goals for 2014 and then broke those down into weekly and monthly activities that overtime, I believe (hope!), will become habits.
As part of this, I’ve been reading up on the process of developing better habits. In case you, too, have a problem sticking to your resolutions, here’s some helpful tips I’ve discovered to shift your mindset from resolution to habit. Happy reading!
- Eliminate decision fatigue. President Obama only wears blue or gray suits, in an attempt to limit decision fatigue. From the New York Times: “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.” Lifehacker offers some helpful tips to avoid decision fatigue.
- Start with habits so small that you can’t miss. But, if you do miss, never miss twice. Building a new habit is all about consistency. But, you can ease into that consistency. Take the habit and break it down into smaller chunks that you can build on. When you start small, you only have room to grow. If you do find that you miss a step or a part of the process, just don’t miss twice in a row.
- Create a schedule, not a deadline. “Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal by (and then feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it), you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently.
- Stop hitting the snooze button. I set my alarm every day with grand intentions of getting an early start on the morning. Inevitably, the alarm goes off, I hit snooze and then I’m already behind. As my buddy David Spinks found, just making this one basic change means he can incorporate other positive habits into his morning ritual. “I figured if I can wake up at the same time every week day, without snoozing, I can start to build a routine to getting my day started on the right foot and make a positive change in other areas as well … I’ve tried a lot of different alarm clocks to solve the problem to no avail. I decided that I’d try to come up with a new response to my alarm going off. Instead of just laying in bed, I would immediately put my running shoes on. That would be my routine. I started with 8:30am, then once I had that down, I went to 8:00am. Now I try to wake up at 7:30am every day. It’s still a work in progress but it’s definitely had a positive impact on my day-to-day.”
- Reward yourself. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, breaks the cycle of habits into three steps: Cue, routine, reward. As he told NPR, “Well, what happens is that you get exposed to this cue, you do something, and it delivers a reward. And your brain starts to learn an association between that cue and that behavior and the reward.”
What’s your New Year’s Resolution? What steps do you take to turn your resolution into an actual habit? Share in the comments … I’m really interested in learning how you do it!