Anyone else worn down by the holiday crazy and ready to move on with their lives?
Yeah. Me, too.
Every year about this time I start thinking about things I want to accomplish in the coming year. I’m not a fan of resolutions. Resolutions are just good intentions. Resolutions tend to be vague: “I will get into shape.” What does that even mean? Aren’t you already a shape? Resolutions lean toward extreme changes, and we all know results from extreme changes never last for long.
I prefer to set goals, but even goals without a plan are no better than resolutions.
This year, I think I’m going to ditch both resolutions AND goals. This next year I want to focus on habits. Specifically, healthy habits.
Habits are the bedrock to achieving anything. You might find that once you stop setting goals (ie., “I need to lose 30 pounds in 6 months) that establishing healthy habits gets easier. Goals can have a demoralizing effect if, like me, you think of yourself as a failure when you don’t reach them per plan.
But how do you build habits? And, more importantly, how do you make them stick? I’m so glad you asked. Read on for some tips!
1. Set a bite-sized goal. A goal like “workout regularly” is too abstract. Be more specific. Try, “I will walk 15 minutes per day.”
2. Create a cue-based plan. Let’s stick with the walking example. It needs some work, so let’s add to it. “Every day at lunch I will spend 15 minutes walking outside.” You’ve defined the time and place for the activity. When and where you are will cue you to follow through on your set action.
3. Make back up plans. When you’re working on the second item in this list, it’s important to keep in mind that not every day will be the same. Your plan for the second item should be your first best plan (walk at lunch, for example). But what happens if a meeting runs long and you don’t get a lunch? Do you just not walk that day?
(ahem… the answer to that is ‘no.’)
Take time to experiment with other ways of getting the job done. Try walking before or after work, or when you need to take a break in the afternoon. If your routine becomes too inflexible, you’ll follow through less often.
4. Make it fun! Let’s be honest, are any of us going to stick with a habit if it doesn’t give us some sort of pleasure? Of course not! With our walking example, making that your time to chat with a friend, listen to music or an audiobook, or practice a moving meditation can be all the motivation you need. You can also try “temptation bundling.” Consider only letting yourself enjoy an indulgence when you’re working toward your goal. This changes the pursuit of your goal to pleasure, not pain.
5. Find support. There’s a reason ‘phoning a friend’ is a gameshow worthy phrase. We all need support sometimes. Humans influence other humans, so surround yourself with people who exhibit the healthy habits you are working on. Good habits are infectious, and spending time with people who are a little ahead of you in their journey can inspire you to keep going.
One last tip: Try focusing on one habit at a time. Once you have one habit firmly in place, you can move onto the next one. How will you know your new activity has become a habit? Simple: it feels weird to *not* do it.
What are some healthy habits you want to work on next year? Drop them in the comments below, or email them to [email protected].