Most of us start each New Year with great expectations of making positive changes in our lives declared by New Year’s Resolutions. Listed within the top 10 common resolutions are: spending more time with family, losing weight, exercising and getting organized. To reach our goals, we have to do more than say them out loud over a champagne toast. New habits are required to declare victory.
The first step to creating a new habit is to write down the habit that you want to put an end to. The act of physically writing it down is more powerful than only saying it out loud. The second step is to write down the replacement habit you’d like to embrace. For example, if weight loss is your goal, you may write down that you want to stop taking a nap after work. Your replacement habit may be a thirty minute walk instead.
Writing it down is a great step toward being very clear about what you want to accomplish. Now it’s time to follow the three steps required to create change:
- Attach a strong emotion to the outcome. How will you feel when you are done walking every day? How will you feel when you are sleeping better at night because you didn’t take a nap? Happy, relaxed, energized?
- Write down the positive payoffs that you expect. More energy, less stress, better fitting clothing.
- Create a cue or spotlight to remind yourself of your new habits. Leave a visual reminder in plain site until your habits become engrained. For your walk, leave your walking shoes right next to the door.
Repeat your habit for 21 days. Time and consistency are required to create new habits. If your new habit doesn’t ‘take’ in 21 days, go another 21 days. Imagine a new habit like creating tire tracks in the snow. The snow is smooth and untouched until you start driving in it and creating tire tracks in the snow. You have to do the same thing with habits, keep creating those tracks until they are engrained.
In a perfect world, we would follow all of those steps, create new habits and reach our goals. But, sometimes life gets messy and we find ourselves under stress.
When we are under stress, our brains can stop thinking clearly and default to a feeling brain. When this happens, all logic may go out the window. We may feel stressed and take that nap, eat the big piece of cake or take part in some other activity that is in direct opposition to what we know we should be doing.
Don’t get too stressed out if this happens. Just go back and review your list of positive emotions and positive outcomes and recommit moving forward.
Our nervous system doesn’t much care for change and likes to keep the status quo. To help ensure your success, keep these points in mind:
- Only change one or two habits at a time
- Repetition is key, keep making those tracks in the snow
- Add more new habits only after your current habits are completely engrained
- Celebrate your milestones and success
- Don’t give up
Creating new habits can be difficult, but it CAN be done and you will reap the rewards of meeting your goals and feeling successful.