You’ve set a new year’s resolution, awesome! You know where you are going to be going but have you determined how you are actually going to get there?
It is estimated that about 80% of new years resolutions fail by February, that is not a good percentage. Some argue that one shouldn’t even bother setting one because of this high failure rate but this is like saying setting goals is pointless. A goal allows us to know what we are aiming for and that is important because then we can take actions in accordance with where we want to go.
The issue is that many people set new year’s resolutions but then don’t bother to breakdown how to actually get there. The key to getting to any goal is about changing our habits and behaviors. This needs to be done because your current habits and behaviors have brought you to where you are right now, which is wishing you were somewhere else!
Step 1: Break the goal into the steps that will get you there.
Let’s use the most common new year’s resolution of weight loss as an example.
Your Goal: lose 20 pounds in 2020
What will get me there? Being in a calorie deficit
What steps do I need to take to be in a calorie deficit?
- Decrease my caloric intake
- Exercise regularly
Step 2: Determine how you will accomplish these steps
Decrease my calorie intake by tracking my food intake for each meal so I know how much I am actually eating and allowing me to make progress.
Exercise regularly by working out at home 3 days per week for 30 minutes when I wake up on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Step 3: Determine how to implement new positive habits
We have now taken a new year’s resolution that was broad and broken it down into what actions we are going to be taking which means we know what habits we need, tracking food intake for each meal and exercising three times per week.
In the beginning, new year’s motivation is always at an all-time high but as time goes on it can start to slip away which makes us start to slip back into our old habits. This means we need to make our new habits easy to do and make our old habits harder.
The harder a new habit is to start doing the harder it will be for us to do it. Take the exercise, for example, a way to make it easier is to set out workout clothes the night before with your running shoes next to your bed. This takes away a barrier in the morning the clothes are ready to go so we get changed and now are ready to exercise. The easier a new habit is to do the more likely we are to do it. If you find you can’t talk yourself into those 30 minutes, commit to 2 minutes and once that gets easy, move to 5, then 10…. soon enough you’ll be at 30 minutes. True that 2 minutes, three times a week won’t cause a big change but it’s a lot better than zero minutes a week!
Step 4: See what habits have been holding you back
It’s important to see what steps are holding you back and to take steps to stop them OR use them as leverage for your new positive habits.
Let’s use two examples, first a habit we need to break that is holding us back from losing weight.
Getting a pastry each morning with your morning coffee on your way into work. You may think, I’m just going to stop buying the pastry, and some people that may work. However, it may only stop for a bit and there is a high likelihood it will start up again because you have associated that action of going into that coffee shop with buying a pastry. You have primed your body to crave a pastry when you walk into the coffee shop. You feel that pull of the craving and in order to not get it, we need to use will-power. Easier said than done, right?
An easier option is to pick a new coffee shop or start making coffee at home and bringing it with you. You have changed your routine which means that prompt for the craving is no longer there. This allows you to stop automatically reacting to your environment and without the craving, there is no pull, and with no pull, there is no need to use will-power to stay on track.
How can we use a limiting habit to actually help us get where we want to go? If we want to exercise 3 mornings a week but what we currently do is sit on the couch and watch your favorite program. We can use TV as a reward for exercising, make a deal with yourself, “after exercising I get to watch TV” by pairing exercise with something you enjoy you create an association of exercise with enjoying yourself allowing you to build up that positive habit more easily. It is even more powerful if you use someone to help like a roommate or partner, tell them they only give you the remote to the TV after you have exercised.
Follow the Steps
When it comes to new year’s resolutions, we don’t want to be part of the 80% that gives up by February, we want to part of that small group that actually accomplishes what we set out to do. We can do that by breaking down the goal into steps and then seeing how we can turn those into habits while getting rid of the habits that are limiting us or using habits, we currently have to help us take those positive actions.
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