New Year’s resolutions just got cancelled for next year. Already. And so was the case last year. And the year before. And before. And…
We’re nearly at the end of 2017. Remember the New Year’s resolutions you made at the beginning of the year? To perhaps manage your money better. Shred off a few pounds of weight. Or stop rolling over the baby at night? (Not cool). Chances are, you’ve probably forgotten that you even made those promises to yourself. According to research, 80% of us will give up on our resolutions by the second month of the year. Ouch!
By now you’re likely making your new year resolutions for 2018. But allow me to crash your dreams for a moment — you probably won’t keep them. I know it’s the truth you were not hoping to hear. Sorry, not sorry. So let’s fix that. That’s why I’ve written this post.
We are beings of habit
Whether you’re aware of it or not, we are beings of habit. Your daily activities are governed by your subconscious. Imagine if you had to remember how to eat every day! That would be like walking on your hands while brushing your teeth! That would be horrible! Ok, that’s random, but the point to note here is that most of our behaviours and actions are on autopilot. We do them without thinking.
Before you read further stop for a second and answer this question — what’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Perhaps something you reach for. Be honest. Pause and think about it.
Did you think your mobile phone? I bet you did. If you didn’t you’re probably thinking – “Oh yeah, that’s it. He’s right”. And that’s before you’ve even said good morning to your partner!?
I wouldn’t go to the extent of saying we are addicted to our smartphones just yet (although we are) but the reason we are quick to peek into our phones is that it’s a habit.
A habit consists of three building blocks which are cue, routine, and reward.
Cue — this is the event that causes you to react. It’s important that I say “react” here because that’s what it really is — a reaction. Sticking with the analogy of looking at our mobile phones, ever noticed how your eyes are quick to gaze at your phone screen when a notification sound goes off? That ping is the cue causing you to react.
Routine — the routine is the actual action, i.e. picking up your phone. This is the habit.
Reward — this is the satisfaction you get when you respond to that text message or you double tap the new IG post from your friend. Basically, your phone asked for your attention and you gave it the attention.
When we set ourselves resolutions we tend to set goals. The problem with that is most of the time there’s no actionable plan on how to achieve those goals. I can recall a conversation I had with a friend of a friend a while back. He had all these goals on how he wants to make a fortune. But when I asked him how he would go about in accomplishing his goals he had no clue.
Perhaps instead of focusing on the goal of starting to wake up early, for example, maybe focus on the habits that may prevent you or even help you in achieving this goal. You could avoid drinking coffee quite late in the day as it’s likely to prevent you from falling asleep early. So how about if you identify what the cue for your coffee drinking habit is. Maybe it’s because while you’re staring at your computer monitor towards the end of the work day you find yourself dozing off and the first thing you do is reach for a cup of coffee. You could perhaps replace the coffee routine with taking a brisk walk to the water machine or to your colleague’s desk for a chat. Doing that often enough will break your habit of having coffee each time you start dozing off in the afternoon. The key here is to identify the cue, in this case, feeling sleepy while at your desk.
There are other habits you may want to consider in order to wake up early such as reducing your screentime before bed. Kill those dirty old habits that will prevent you from achieving your goal by replacing them with other good habits such as reading a paper book instead of your Kindle device before bed.
Setting goals that are too far-fetched is another factor that stops us from achieving them. Let’s say you want to run the marathon in 2018, don’t just think you’ll wake up on January the 1st and get on the track! If anything, don’t even think about the 26 miles you have to run. Instead, start running a mile a day and increase it by a mile each week. Focus on running the next mile, not the whole 26 miles and before you know it you’re fully prepared.
It’s easier to start when you have a small chunk to work on. And why do you have to wait for that “new year new me” rubbish anyway? Go run your first 10 minutes now. You could be thinking, “I’ll stop procrastinating next year”. Did you notice that you just procrastinated to not procrastinate? You fruit!
I’m by no means perfect. I procrastinate (a lot!). This post was meant to go up at the beginning of 2017 but I never got round to starting it. But because I learnt that procrastination is a big problem of mine, I’ve practised to workaround it by setting myself deadlines. The only problem with setting yourself deadlines is that you can easily miss them because there’s no one above you to oversee your progress. It’s a shame that some of us will work hard to meet the deadlines for our bosses at work but not so much when it comes to our own goals.
It’s understandable that you can easily slack if there’s nothing or someone governing you. This is when you need guidance from elsewhere. You could share your goals with a good friend, spouse or relative who can motivate you and remind you of your coming deadlines. This will help you keep the momentum. Surround yourself with people who have interest in your goals.
Have a plan
You need to have a written plan of what your goals are. Writing them down will serve as a constant reminder of what you’re working toward. Make a list of your long-term goals and another one of your short-term goals. The short-term goals are your confidence builders. Each time you achieve the short-term milestones you’re building up toward the bigger goals.
You also need to prepare yourself for what you are about to do or want to do. I find I wake up easily if I plan my morning the night before. This includes preparing my breakfast and having a list of tasks to do that morning. I’ve also developed a routine which includes meditating and reading while having a cup of coffee. Having this plan gives me something to look forward to when I wake up.
The final thing is to make your goals measurable. There’s satisfaction in seeing your measured progress. You’ll be motivated to keep going when you start seeing results.
So here it is, instead of focusing too much on the ultimate goal, focus on the building blocks, i.e. the steps required to get there. Think of creating unique new year resolutions of building habits that you’ll live by each day.
- Instead of the 10 pounds of weight you want to lose, focus on preparing your next healthy meal.
- Instead of trying to finish the book you’re writing, focus on the 30 minutes you’re spending right now to writing the next three paragraphs.
- Instead of searching for the top new year resolutions, create your own daily goals.Have a successful new year.