As we approach the beginning of a new year, you’ve probably got an awesome list of New Year’s Resolutions that you’ve promised yourself you’re going to stick to in 2013.
That’s great, but as I’m sure you’ve experienced before… things don’t always go as planned.
Don’t worry. It’s not your fault.
Society has taught you that if you just “try harder” and “persevere” then you’ll come out on top.
Ok great. But what does that really mean? How do you really make your new habits stick? That kind of advice is empty and generic, and will get you nowhere quickly.
Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?
Of course I’m a big fan of asking why things like this happen, and then using those findings to make real changes.
What I’ve found that most people struggle with, including a five year younger version of my current self, is how to make the new habits stick easily.
Through the application of implementing simple systems into my life and an understanding of the “why” behind habitual change, I’ve been able to vastly improve upon that, and help many others with it as well.
I’ve implemented habits that have allowed me to do things like read more each day, work out more, stay on top of my finances, keep my inbox at zero, build meaningful professional relationships, and many other small habits that have added up to very significant life changes.
And you can do the same.
Any kind of life change, even the smallest of changes, requires an adjustment to the daily habits that make up your day to allow that change to happen. And if you want those new habits to stick, it requires setting up systems in your life as well as being in the right mindset to accomplish your goal – not just trying harder alone.
Making Your New Habits Stick
Before you set out to ingrain a new habit, one very important thing to understand is that you have a finite amount of will power reserve to put towards that habit.
If you approach a change in your life on the basis of will power alone (aka, trying really hard) you may be fine for a couple of months, but your will power reserve will eventually run out and you will fail.
First, Really Want It For Yourself
If you’re making a change for someone else and not yourself, you might as well stop right now. For a change to really happen in your life and stick, it has to be YOU that makes a conscious decision to make that change happen. Motivation that comes from the outside cannot be counted on as a constant.
The motivation you need needs to come from you first.
Make It Easy On Yourself
Making your new habit easy on yourself to accomplish is one of the most powerful things you can do to increase the likelihood of your success.
By this I mean setting up simple systems that provide you the path of least resistance to taking the actions you need to take to make change happen.
Take this example from my own life.
After completing graduate school, I noticed there was a lack of learning in my life, which I wasn’t ok with. So I set a goal to read more each day. In order to make that easier on myself, I would keep a couple of books, a notepad, a highlighter, and a pen right next to my bed (or my Kindle).
I would also make sure to head up to bed at a certain time each night before I was tired so I could get in my reading time before falling asleep.
It might sound very simple, but by creating this system, I eliminated all of the obstacles that my inner laziness (we all have it) routinely conjured up to keep me from achieving my habitual change.
And it worked great. I still have this habit to this day, and its basically automatic.
Build In Accountability
For more difficult and complex habitual change, building in accountability often helps. Create a support network of friends to help check up on you. Join a community or group with similar motivations as yourself, or create a contest with yourself that rewards you as you stick to your habits.
I’ve written before about my experience with Paleo Nutrition and CrossFit – losing 15 pounds in 30 days and feeling amazing while doing so.
Accountability was a key driver with my success in that endeavor. I participated in the challenge with 20 other individuals, who were all accountable to competing for a grand prize pot of nearly $200 for the winner. This was great for all of us to stick to our habits, even if only one person was the winner.
The more support you can get and the more like-minded the people around you are towards your goal, the higher your likelihood is going to be that you can make your change.
Remember Your Why
The late Zig Ziglar once said “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
You may slip from time to time, but as long as you remember why you started in the first place and continually remind yourself, that will help to keep you going.
Take Your First Step Now
Now for some accountability. What habits are you looking to implement in the new year, or in your life in general, and why? Can you think of some easy ways to make them easier on yourself to set yourself up for success?
If you’re willing, share them in the comments below.
Happy New Year!