How has 2016 been for you so far? Did you make a pile of resolutions for yourself this year? Kept any of them?
I used to be the queen of New Year’s resolution lists. I’d think of one resolution, which would lead to another, and another, until, on paper, I’d completely transformed my life. The new me! Yes!
I could usually maintain the momentum of the new lifestyle I had documented for myself for about 2 days. Maybe a week.
And then each of my newfound habits dropped off one by one.
But last year, I actually stuck to a resolution. All. Year. Long.
So what are the tricks for making New Year’s resolutions stick?
1. Set ONE goal only. This is the most important thing. The temptation is to think we can change everything at once. But we never can. We have to work out what is the ONE thing that we most want to change, and focus on that only. Some people aim for one goal a month. But I decided to focus on one goal for the year. For me last year, that was running. And I managed to throw every ounce of motivation I had at that one goal. And it worked.
2. Start small. I didn’t set myself the goal of running a marathon, or running far, or fast. I just had to put on my running shoes each day, and head out the door. I slowly built up my fitness and capacity, but didn’t set the bar too high; if we do, we risk putting ourselves off even getting started.
3. Do it everyday. Doing something everyday means your brain more quickly builds a new neural pathway. Our brains love habits, and when you know you’re doing something everyday, you don’t have to engage in a mental negotiation process about whether today you can justify having a day off. You just go. Obviously there are exceptions, but the exceptions are circumstance based (like getting sick, attending to an urgent matter, a pre-determined day of rest), rather than decided on a whim. I didn’t run on Sundays, but other than that, as much as I could, I stuck to my goal.
4. Choose a time of day for that new habit. Again, our brains require less energy when we do things based on habits and routines. If a time of day doesn’t work, try linking the habit to another activity. e.g Meditate for 5 minutes after dropping the kids off at school, or do 5 minutes of yoga stretching after doing your teeth. The more you can tie a habit into your existing routine, the more chance you have of making it stick. Compare it to brushing your teeth; you probably do that at a pretty set time each day, and your brain requires no mental energy to make it happen, you just do it.
Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish proverb
5. Try and find the enjoyment in the habit itself. If your’e only running to try to lose weight, it can be hard to stay motivated if you don’t see results. But if you slowly learn to enjoy and see benefits in the run itself – the fresh air, the chance to be in nature, the silence, the headspace, the extra energy it gives you over time – you’re more likely to stay for the long haul.
What’s the number one thing you’d love to integrate into your life this year?