How To Make A New Habit And Stick To It
At the start of the year, we are usually bombarded with the kind of messaging that tells us we need to strive to be better and do better. While resolutions are the all too familiar vehicle for achieving this, the truth is that it’s consistent behaviour change that can make all the difference if, indeed, you are looking to make some changes. And the great news is [spoiler alert] by reframing how you view making these changes, you can have a lot of fun doing it…
Your life is already full of habits, you may not notice them because they are now part of your life, but they are there and there are choices you’ve made, over time, that are an intrinsic part of who you are.
And yet, at the start of the year, it’s tempting to try to implement new habits and because they are usually wrapped up in the word ‘resolutions’, they can become sticks to beat ourselves with - a metaphorical weapon we use against ourselves to implement change.
Truthfully, as one year ends and another begins it’d be far more productive to think over the past 12 months and celebrate everything you’ve achieved rather than look at the year ahead as a time in which you have to do ‘better’, be ‘different’ or worse still, become a ‘new you’.
The YOU right now is doing just fine. If you’ve made it through the last two years then you should be giving yourself a pat on the back not chastising yourself for not having gone to the gym enough, not having double-cleansed every night, well, you get the idea.
So, before you start writing a list of new habits now is a good time to take an inventory of the last year. Who were the people you spent time with who made your heart feel full? Spend more time with them and don’t just think about it, get some dates in the diary as something to look forward to. Who were the people you spent time with who made you feel exhausted or bad about yourself? Spend less time with them and don’t apologise for it.
With all that said, we can probably all think of some small changes that would benefit us but habits can be tricky things to absorb into your life. It’s why over 80% of resolutions fail so if there are some changes you’d like to make, here’s a kinder way to do it.
Making a change doesn’t need to mean being brilliant from the minute you start. Reframe how you view it and instead of ‘perfect from day one’ think ‘better by the end of the year’. Serena Williams didn’t play her first tennis game perfectly; in fact, being aware of her shortcomings and working on her weaknesses were likely what gave her purpose and the motivation to continue - and look at what she’s achieved.
Don’t overdo it.
When we feel motivated it can be tempting to try to do as much as possible, but take your foot off the accelerator if you want changes to stick. BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, who is the director of the Behaviour Design Lab, suggests starting with small changes and only attempting three small changes at one time. Behaviour changes is hard, the science proves it, so don’t make it harder by taking on too much.
Have a ‘pillar’ habit.
There are some habits that can have a wider impact on everything else in your life. For example, the habit of getting up early can make a lot of people feel more productive and energised and as a result, the rest of the day feels smoother. It might be getting five minutes to yourself with a cup of tea before the rest of the house wakes up but whatever it is, figure out what your pillar habit is and implement that.
Enjoy the process.
Let’s face it, the most common resolutions have to do with diet and exercise. Setting yourself a goal doesn’t produce any kind of result though, your lifestyle does. So, if you embark on a highly restrictive eating plan that doesn’t allow for you to be social and leaves your stomach rumbling all day then you’re not going to enjoy the process and you’re unlikely to get to the goal.
Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the process and make sure you enjoy it. So what if it takes a little longer to get there, you’ve had fun doing it!
Change your surroundings.
Habits can be hard to stick to, which can make you feel like a failure but all it could take is a few little tweaks and you’ll be on your way. To use a very obvious metaphor, if a plant isn’t in the right conditions then it’s unable to thrive. Move it to a brighter spot, give it a little more water and it perks up, can grow and blossom. Create the right conditions for you to bloom.
If overwhelm is your issue, for example, then list-making, a time management app or an accountability partner could help you make the changes you want.
It all adds up.
Every journey starts with a single step, or so the saying goes. It’s tempting to make big goals because how our goals look and feel like in our heads can be extremely tantalising and it’s tempting to want whatever that is immediately. While it would be incredible if one big effort made the change, the truth is that consistent effort over time is going to get you where you want to be.