Every year on January 1, people set New Year’s resolutions. For most, they go through the motions for a few weeks, slip up once or twice, fail some more, and then give up.
Why? Because their resolution is too vague and they don’t have a plan. For example, a lot of people say they want to lose weight, but don’t have a blueprint to accomplish this resolution. To achieve a desired outcome, you need specific, measurable goals and a systematic game plan. It's like running a marathon. A marathon is 42 km, and between the start and the finish line, there are many challenges a runner will face. Without a game plan and specific strategies for training, eating, exercising, etc., the runner would never achieve his or her goal of finishing the marathon.
Instead of setting big goals that feel overwhelming and take a long time to materialize, try to focus on small habits. These small habits compound over time and inevitably amount to desired outcomes. Microhabits also leave room for flexibility; they make the prospect of changing direction along the way manageable. Here are a few tips that you might find useful to help create new habits and break bad ones.
"There is an old saying that, you can't kill a frog by dropping him into hot water. As you drop him into the hot water, he reacts so quickly that he immediately jumps out unharmed. But if you put him in cold water and gradually warm it up until it is scalding hot, you have him cooked before he knows it. The encroachment of bad habits in our lives is very much like this."~ Unknown
Pay a penalty for breaking a habit
Commit $X to charity for every time you break the habit. Or assign an “accountability buddy” to keep you on track!
Don't worry about giving it 100% all the time
It’s not about quality, it’s about going through the motions consistently and programming ourselves to do things regularly. Many people have an all-or-nothing mentality; when they don’t have the energy for “all,” they do nothing. Instead, go through the motions of fulfilling your habit, even if it’s just to the most minimal degree. Habit-forming is about small, incremental changes on a daily basis. Keep doing it enough and your brain will get into the habit.
Break your ultimate goal into smaller short-term goals
For example, if you want to lose 60 pounds, going from your current weight to your desired weight will appear overwhelming. Take it one day at a time. Set daily or weekly goals and then take it from there.
Identify your triggers or temptations so you can combat them
If your trigger is ice cream and you’re trying to lose weight, then don’t have ice cream in the house. If it isn’t there, you can’t eat it and wont feel guilty.
Start simple — don’t try to tackle everything at once
One small habit at a time (e.g. drink 1 glass of water at dinner)
No skip days. But if you do skip a day, don’t kill yourself for it. Try to never do two skip days in a row. Changing habits takes time, but undoing all of your hard work changing a habit can be undone quickly.
Keep thinking about the big picture
It’s easy to get discouraged with new habits when you don’t see instant results. Discouragement is almost always a precursor to giving up- don’t buy into it!
Insert or “stack” your new habit into your already existing daily rituals
Wake up, feed the dog, do five sit-ups, make coffee, etc.
Consider if-then scenarios
“If I’m too tired to go to the gym, then I will do 10 minutes of yoga at home instead.” It gives you flexibility to adjust your plans without it feeling like a cop-out.
Be a scientist
Practice your new habit as though you’re experimenting. In science, there are no failures, only experiments and results. If you don’t get the result you want, tweak the parameters of the experiment.
Create “getting started” shortcuts
For example, if your new habit is to start waking up early, but you’re not a morning person, load up the coffeemaker the night before and set out your work clothes in advance. Removing some of the pain makes it easier to stick to your plan.
One step back, two steps forward
Don’t let one minor setback blow your whole new habit. If you blow your diet one day, that’s not a good reason to say, “Screw it, I might as well give up now.” Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.