It’s approaching that time of year again when most of us will be creating ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ for 2013. Perhaps you want to exercise more, weigh less, spend more time with your loved ones and find a healthier work life balance? Perhaps you want to start something new or break a bad habit? How wise exactly are we in creating New Year’s resolutions? And what can we do to ensure we succeed this time?
Firstly, there is a lot to be said about ‘turning over a new leaf.’ Those of us wishing to break a bad habit, or create a new one, are likely to benefit from the psychological motivation that has been observed as highly beneficial when giving a person a ‘fresh start’. If we can create a date – and this does not need to be New Years Day! – from which we shall begin anew, the psychological impact does indeed work in our favour. We are more likely to get it right if we believe we are making a fresh start.
But a fresh start is not enough for all of us. Many of us are still likely to ‘relapse’, become impatient with ourselves and give up. What can we do to ensure that the change we wish to implement ‘sticks’.
The secrets lie in perseverance, even when you perceive failure, and in understand the nature of change and patterns. Change involves changing behaviour, and for behaviour to become automatic, it needs to become a habit. So how do we create (or break) a habit?
Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, says we should examine the location, time of day, other people and any other triggers that are responsible for activating your habit if you wish to break it. What are the cues, routines and rewards sustaining the habit in your life? Alternatively, create rewards in order to incentivise yourself to maintain a new positive habit!
In order to learn to hit a ball, we have to miss, in order to colour in, we start by drawing outside the lines. Yet as adults, we become extremely intolerant of our perceived failings. We forget that the learning process consists of failure until such point as we succeed. Thomas Edison tested over 3000 filaments before he found the right filament for a lightbulb. How many of us would conduct 3000 tests, or would we give up in the face of perceived failure?
The creation of a habit involves practice. A new habit will take at least 21 – 30 days to implement, during which time you can expect to fail a number of times. Once the habit is entrenched, it becomes automatic, and you will find yourself wondering how on earth you got through your week without those six gym sessions before!
New Year’s resolutions can be very positive, but remember, we don’t have to wait until New Year to make the change that will improve our circumstances now! And remember that every step, forward or backwards, is a step in the right direction as it is an opportunity to learn! With a little determination, we will succeed as long as we remember to be patient with ourselves.
Recommended reading: Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”