Are you thinking about making resolutions for 2020? According to History.com, the practice of making new year resolutions has been around for thousands of years and what we now call resolutions used to be promises made to the gods to behave better in the upcoming year. Resolutions are now made to ourselves in an effort to better ourselves and/or our lives. While 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, only 8 percent are actually successful. If we’re so bad at keeping them, why do we keep on making them?
Well, there’s something very attractive about new beginnings. So, a new year, a new month, a new day seems like an ideal time start something new. I personally believe that so many people fail because they’re making this resolution for the year, “this year I will…”, and have given themselves a year to accomplish it and therefore make the goal a big one. That, in itself, is not the problem. A year is actually a good amount of time to make some real changes, but, people don’t create a gradual plan for the year. They create a crash course that they intend on keeping until they reach their goal. “I will run 5 miles every day.” “I’ll only eat salads.” “I will meditate for an hour every day.” Starting from square one, each of these are too severe to expect to be able to maintain them. They end up falling off the wagon and, feeling defeated, give up never having reached their goal. The best way to reach your goal is to start with a small behavior to change, one small step forward. Then, as your body and your mind are ready for it, you can progress to something more challenging. Running 5 miles might begin as walking a half mile every other day. See how it feels after the first week and maybe add a day or progress to a half mile walk/run.
If you want to achieve your resolution, create a progression. Rather than trying to take one giant leap, start with a small step. The idea of committing to smaller steps is easier on us physically, mentally, and takes less time to chisel out of our schedule. Once the first small step is taken, a second one can happen, then a third. Sustainable change is the accumulation of small progressive steps.
As the saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
Having the right habits in place is important to our businesses and our lives. When it comes to breaking old habits or creating new ones, one thing that can help is to use existing habits as cornerstones to change. The idea of stacking habits is when you add a new habit directly after something you already do habitually. “When I do “X”, I will then do “Y”.
To use this you first have to acknowledge those things that you do automatically throughout your day. Say your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do first? Second? Third? In example, I know I 1) get up, 2) go to the bathroom, 3) make myself a cup of coffee, 4) sit down and read emails, then 5) go through social media, yada, yada… Once you have created a list of your habits, you can start to tack on an additional task in the appropriate place.
Say, you want to start writing a blog. Your evening routine is to eat dinner, clean up the dinner dishes, watch tv until 11pm, brush your teeth, and go to bed. You could stack writing into that schedule. “When I finish cleaning up the dinner dishes, I will sit down and write for 30 minutes before I turn the tv on…” You’ll have to keep reminding yourself for awhile, but this will soon become habit.
That’s to add a new behavior. You can also stack habits to help break or change bad habits. Maybe you come home from work and, before you even change out of your work clothes, immediately snack on chips or some other junk food. You could insert a behavior to help break that one. “As soon as I get home, I will go to the kitchen, take 5 minutes and eat an apple, then change my clothes, and then, if I still want chips, I can have them. The fact is that once you’ve cut your hunger by having an apple, and stalled the routine further by changing your clothes, you will find yourself in more control and be less likely to want the junk food.
By linking a new behavior to something you are already doing (stacking habits), you create an anchor for the new behavior and are much more likely to stick with it then if you just tell yourself to do the new behavior at some random point.
Try it out. I’d love to hear how this works for you.
As the story goes, when a young comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any words of wisdom, Seinfeld said, “Don’t break the chain.” What he was talking about was that he set a goal for himself of writing X number of jokes every day and when he accomplished this, he would cross off that day on the calendar. This created his “chain” or consecutive days of achievement.
The idea of this chain, or consistency tracking, is a way to motivate you into creating a habit that helps you work toward your goals. Currently, I’m using Duolingo to help me learn Japanese. The app sends me a reminder every day to not break the chain.
There is a definite desire to build that consistency record. Whether you are marking the days that you work out or eat correctly or practice your instrument…. checking off those days feels good and does add motivation. And… the longer your chain or record goes, the more you try not to break it.
Now, probably, at some point, you will miss a day/break the chain, and you need to jump back on and start again from scratch (as far as the chain is concerned), but having worked at that consistency, we are already ahead of the game, both in what we have accomplished goal wise and in the building of a habit.
So, start now and again as often as you need to. Build that chain. Build those habits that will lead you to your goals.