By Jay Forte
We’re over a month into 2019. How are you doing on those resolutions?
Face it, we all have good intentions. We intend to eat right, exercise more, be more present in our relationships and leave less of a footprint on our planet. Then, our days get busy and we default back to our old ways, only to move through another year without living to any of our commitments or resolutions to be better. Why is that?
Well, it has a lot to do with your brain. You process so many things in the course of a day that your brain defaults to what it knows for most things. That means that until you build a new habit that is stronger than your old habit, your old habits will continue to lead. I like to think of habits as brain ruts (neural pathways). The more you practice something, the deeper the rut. So many of your habits, even if they are unproductive (like eating the wrong things, watching too much television, driving too fast), are deep ruts. The deeper the rut, the stronger the habit.
So, until your resolutions become deeper ruts than your existing habits, you will continue default to your habits. This is why it is so hard to stick to our resolutions and commitments when they are different than what we’re already accustomed to doing.
Here are three ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine to build deeper brain ruts so your resolutions to be better can take root and become your new way of being.
- Do something that really matters. Don’t create resolutions or changes that others require. For you to make a change that sticks, your changes really have to matter to you. When you see the value of your change, you are more likely to keep going to make it your new habit. This requires reflection and thought on your part. One of my mottos for my coaching clients is: tune out to tune in. Disconnect from your noisy and busy world to find the quiet and time to reflect on what is most important to you. What is a goal you want to achieve that is really important to you? See it. Focus on it. Be committed to it.
- Make it easy and able to be repeated. Repetition is critical to the way we learn best and fastest. When you identify what it is you really want to change or achieve, identify what things you can do every day to that will help you with your goal. It could be setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier to get up and journal before you start your day. It could be buying sparkling water each week at the grocery store to eliminate the presence of sugary sodas in your house. It could be walking with a friend every morning who acts as your accountability partner. Make your changes small, easy and able to be repeated. You brain will quickly learn this new behavior and help you replace the old habit with your new habit.
- Check in, manage and measure your progress. Coaches are successful with their clients because they help them clearly define what they want to achieve and hold them accountable by constantly reviewing and measuring their progress. You can’t achieve or change what you don’t measure. To make a resolution or change stick requires you to regularly assess your progress in a way that can be measured. For example, let’s say you decide that walking each morning is your way to get exercise, appreciate your neighborhood and stop yourself from hanging out in the kitchen where you eat things that are unhealthy. How many times a week do you want to commit to walking? How long do you want to walk for? Who will walk with you? Answer these to define your goals then chart your progress. Hang your progress chart on the fridge to keep it in front of you. Then assess how you feel as you make progress. The good feelings that come from doing what is better for you can help you maintain your commitment when your old habits try to take control. The more success you see from your progress, the more your progress will continue.
Many of us mean to make the changes we define for ourselves, but with the pace of life and the distractions of a world that always has our attention, it is difficult to replace old habits with new and better habits.
By better understanding what it takes to build a new and better habit, start with something that really matters, make it something that you can easily do over and over and measure your progress. Following these three simple steps can help you improve your ability to make a change that sticks. How can you refine any of your New Year’s resolutions to follow these three steps so your resolutions become a habit and not just a good intention?
Consider reading What Does a Good Day Look Like For You?