Monday, January 23, 2017

Make Habit Changes, Not New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the new year, and as usual our culture is all abuzz discussing “New Year’s Resolutions.” Year after year, our resolutions never seem to change. We always need to make the same “resolutions” every year because we didn’t fulfill our resolutions the previous year. We always vow to take better care of ourselves, lose weight, budget better, and spend more time with loved ones, etc. It seems as though we think that a small handful of new year’s resolutions will somehow bring balance to our crazy lives with nothing more than single statement of intention to “do better.”

History repeats itself, and happens to be a wonderful teacher. The truth is, if you want to bring about change in your life, relying a single new year’s resolution seems a sure fire way to feel overwhelmed.

Remember that metaphorical question: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Trying to plan a full 365 days of life change in a single go is like trying to eat the whole elephant in one bite. The end goal is too big, too vague, and it lacks a plan. So year after year, what happens? We return to the same unaccomplished New Year’s resolutions.

On the one hand, it’s good that we all recognize that we have areas of potential growth. However, if true personal growth were as straightforward as a handful of resolutions to change, the world’s problems would be solved. In real life, change comes about slower than that.

However, though change comes about slowly, it doesn’t take as long as you may think.

Instead of making a “New Year’s resolution,” identify a few things that you want to change. Then, make a commitment to change your habits. Changing habits is a much smaller, more attainable goal that comes with a formula for success. Want to know it? Here it is:

21 days. That’s it.

It takes 21 days to create a habit. That’s all. You don’t need a full year.

The things in your life that you want to change are usually the result of learned habits. In order to change those things, you simply need to create new habits to replace the old ones.  

For instance, if you want to spend more time with family, try this. Write down days 1-21. Write down at the top of the page: 5 minutes with family. That’s it. Every day, be intentional about spending that extra 5 minutes with your family. After you did it, check it off the day list. After that 21 days is over, you will have created a new habit. At that point, your subconscious will take over. You’ll begin to notice that what started as 5 minutes will begin to expand and the habit of deliberately planned family time will become the new normal for you.

Let’s do another one. Do you want to lose weight? Here’s what NOT to do: start a workout regimen at the same time that you are learning clean eating, while you’re trying to do a sugar detox. Are all those things good for you? Sure! If you’re able to pull it off simultaneously will you lose weight? Absolutely! But for most people in real life, they will succeed when they tackle one thing at a time. For instance, spend the first 21 days doing a sugar detox. Write out days 1-21. Check off each day!

Then for the next 21 days, add in a workout regimen. This can start small as well - you don’t need to start on day 1 with two hours at the gym. Write out days 1-21. Do a small workout in your living room if you need to. Jog around the block. Go to the gym if you’d like, but remember that during this time you’re training your subconscious to form a habit. So you don’t need to do anything over the top. Results will come from a habit change, not just the intensity of a few workouts.

Then, for the NEXT 21 days, focus on diet. Find and experiment with new recipes, be extra deliberate about your grocery purchases, and modify your favorite meals.

There! You created 3 new habits that will produce the results you want. But if you look back, you’ll notice that forming those habits took you a full 63 days. That’s a little more than 2 months! But that foundation of forming healthy habits will carry you over through the rest of the year and help you produce the results you want.

So that’s 63 days of forming habits vs a single new year’s resolution. Which one do you think will produce results? Personal growth takes time - it doesn’t happen overnight. But once habits are formed, they become more automatic and our desired results become less difficult to achieve.

Here’s the other good news. If in your attempts to change habits fall short, you didn’t fail at the entire year’s goal! You can start your 21 day habit change at any point. If you get to day 8 and realize you missed the mark simply start the 21 days over! You didn’t fail at the entire year because you missed a few days of changing habits. You just need to reset the 21 days!

If you want to be better at this thing called life, good for you! Make it happen! But if you want to be successful, do it in a way that will actually help you achieve the results you want.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017!

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