It happens every year. The inevitable setting of the New Year’s Resolution. Despite having the best of intentions, starting out strong and motivated, why is it that so many of us are unsuccessful at making those new behaviors stick? It turns out that creating new habits is more than just motivation and will power. Its about the habits around the new behavior.
The reason so many are unsuccessful at sticking to a new years resolution or intention is that they are focused so much on the end goal and where they want to go that there is little thought on the steps that need to be built to get us there.
Habits are created by repetition, triggered by specific situations or cues and are automatic (often almost done without consciousness). So to make a new habit engrained, we need to create an environment that supports our success. Going out with friends to a bar is not setting you up for success if you are trying not to drink. And starting to read a book isn’t going to be easy if the remote to fire up Netflix is closer to you than your book. These behaviors perpetuate a negative-feedback loop that reinforces the belief that we won’t be successful, creating a downward spiral that sets us up to fail.
So how do we go about setting ourselves up for success? It’s all in creating small steps to build on that are easy to attain and set up in the right environment.
1.) Pick one thing at a time
Bombarding yourself with multiple goals or habits you want to start is overwhelming and seem unattainable, feeding that failure feed-back loop. If you have more than one habit you want to start, make a list and prioritize them. That way you can start to tick them off as each gets solidified.
2.) Start Small
It’s easy in the optimism of the new year to get overly ambitious when creating new habits. The key is to set the bar very low. If you want to read more, set the expectation to read one page a day. It might sound silly and too small but they key is to succeed. One page? That’s cake right? You can always read more but knowing that it’s just one little page you have to read on those days where life is just a little too crazy, that still makes you successful.
3.) Make it Daily and set reminders (that you won’t miss!)
To make habits stick they need to be consistent. Decide on the time of day that you want to do this new habit and dedicated that time to doing it every day. Whether, it’s reading a page of a book, playing 5 minutes of guitar or learning a new language,, make sure it happens at the same time every day. Make a reminder for yourself to create some structure. Be sure that it’s not something that you will NOT miss. Set an alarm on your phone (or three), put a post-it on your mirror or tie it to your dogs tail, but make sure you won’t miss it. You can build from there, but again, the key is to keep its simple.
4.) Connect it to Another Well Established Daily Habit
What habits do you already have well established that you can build on? For example, If you always make coffee first thing in the morning, perhaps that would be a good time to do some language exercises. And we all (hopefully) brush our teeth every night so perhaps after you do that you spend time packing your lunch so that’s one less thing you have to do in the morning. The key to this to create a trigger for that new behavior. After you get into the habit of practicing french as you use your french press, it will feel empty with out it- the two will go hand-in-hand.
5.) Use your Community
Social support is a powerful influence. Having friends or a community help keep you accountable will not only hold you to it but will also provide support during when you get stuck (which are to be expected when making any sort of change). So tell a friend that you are making this change and ask them to hold you accountable. Set up check in times and you could even set up a consequence if you don’t hold yourself to it.
6.) Dedicate yourself and Check-in
Creating new habits take work. It’s changing old patterns and expectations, and developing new one in their place. That’s no easy feat. So you have to go all in. No, maybes. No excuses. Write down what you are hoping to gain from that habit and reflect on it daily. That will help you stay focused and motivated and remind you why you are working so hard to make this change happen.
So get out there! Start breaking down the steps to get you moving in the direction you want to going. The extra work that sets up these habits will be well worth it when you come out successful on the other end.
This post was written by one of our MQ Specialists & MOMENT teachers- Hadley Pearce. To see more of Hadley, and to start building your own meditation habit, consider signing up for our Three Week Meditation Challenge here (link).