How many of us start the new year with a list of resolutions, to get fitter, be healthier, quit a ‘bad’ habit, lose weight… the list goes on… I know I have started new years with great intentions only to fall at, or even before, the first hurdle. So how can we increase the chances of sticking to those New Year Resolutions and creating the positive changes we want to achieve?
Here are a few hacks to help you smash those resolutions and start your journey towards what you want to achieve in this coming year.
Small, consistent change
Often when we seek to let go of old habits, or introduce new ones the first mistake we make is trying to go all out. To make big, radical changes at the moment the hands of the clock strike twelve (or whenever we crawl out of bed on New Year’s Day, feeling tired and a little the worse for wear). The problem with trying to make big changes all at once is that we are fighting (often) years of programming in the way we have been doing things. To expect to change literally overnight without any support, preparation or planning is a big ask of our habit loving brains!
So start by breaking down the changes you want to make. The power of making small, consistent changes is under-rated and yet, can often prove to produce the greatest results over time. Yes, I’m talking about patience and commitment here, two things I am pretty short on myself, so I feel your pain! James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, talks about doing 1% towards your goals, consistently each day. And while this small amount may not seem like a lot on its own, or even be noticeable at all at first, over time, it can yield huge results.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say and like building a house, each brick may not be in and of itself noteworthy, but the result of each of those bricks added together can become a home. When we want to recreate our lives taking a slow, measured approach can feel frustrating. Whether it is building in new habits, or letting go of old ones, it takes time to create new neural pathways in the brain, so consistency really is key. Try creating a tracker so you can tick off your 1% each day and see your progress on the chart as the days and weeks go by.
Another point to note here is with letting go of old habits – often when we slip we throw in the towel, believing it to be evidence that we couldn’t do it after all. This is often the result of previous attempts at trying to lose the old habit, and so our brains have learned that we can’t do it. But here’s the thing – you CAN do it. You absolutely CAN. Every past attempt was a step in your journey, an opportunity to learn more about what works and what doesn’t work for you.
There is no one right way to do something, only your way and while reading about others’ experiences can offer inspiration and insight, it may not offer you the exact journey you need. So play with what works, experiment, let go of what doesn’t work and if you fall off, get right back on the horse with what you have learned and keep going. It isn’t failure, it’s information to help you on your journey.
Learn to use Nudges
Nudges are things that are literally there to jog our memory. They serve as a trigger for us to do something different and to remind us to do that different thing. Say, for example, one of your New Year Resolutions is to start meditating daily, set up an alert on your phone for when you want to do it. Make the alert sound different to any other you use so it attracts your attention and have a meditation to hand so you can jump straight in.
Nudges can also be in the form of inspirational images or quotes to help inspire you towards your goal. Whether it is a picture of what you want to achieve, or a message alert with a quote that gets you motivated, there are many ways we can nudge and inspire at the same time. So again, play around with what does and doesn’t work for you and enjoy the process of learning.
Link new habits to existing habits
Referred to as ‘habit stacking’ this is where we take something we already do and then create an association between it and the thing we want to introduce. So, with our daily mediation example, you could pop a note in your tea mug the night before (nudge) and when you prepare your tea in the morning (your daily habit) you see the note (the nudge) and can do your meditation as your tea brews (stacking meditation onto the morning tea habit).
Using these techniques help to remind you to do the new behaviour while your brain creates the neural pathways that make it a habit.
It may be that you have some unconscious reason for resisting the change you want to create. This can be explored and resolved through therapy to help get you past the block and on the road to success. When we resist change it can be because our unconscious mind fears it on some level. Maybe it fears letting go of an old habit, or maybe it fears the implications of introducing the new one. Whatever it is, the unconscious mind believes it is protecting you by maintain the status quo. Some gentle therapeutic work can help to iron out the kinks and get you on track.
Why not pop your resolutions and habit hacks in the comments below and help inspire others with your ideas?
Good luck, and Happy New Year.