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How to Successfully Reach Your New Year’s Resolutions: Build Better Habits

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“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” - Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell

New Year’s Resolution: [Insert New Habit Here]

It really doesn’t matter what your New Year’s resolution is, what you’re really asking of yourself is to change a habit - how you eat (habit), how much you exercise (habit), how you react to your spouse, sister, mother, brother (habit). Habit, habit, habit - we are driven by our habits.

So, now that we have that settled, can you change your habits? Yes, you can! Just remember that it will take time, patience and, know this now, it won’t be a straight line to long-term change.

Four Steps to Changing Your Habits

Step One: Write down

As always, start with the ‘why’ exercise, so that you can get clarity about what is motivating you to change a habit (work less, be more confident at work, etc.). Research has proven time and again that having a clear and deep understanding of your goal will boost your chances of succeeding long term.

Start by clearly stating your objective: be more confident at work.

  • Ask “why.” Your answer might be: “So that I can ask for a raise.” Be sure to write it down.

  • Ask “why” again: “So I can make more money.”

  • Why? What would feeling more accomplished do? “So I can feel more valued for the work that I do.”

Your own “why” exercise might be more detailed or take fewer “whys.” The point is to keep asking “why” until you arrive at your ultimate reason for pursuing your goal.

Step Two: Make a Plan and find good resources

The paradox of choice is interesting as it relates to starting anything new. Barry Schwartz defines the paradox of choice as, “the fact that in western developed societies a large amount of choice is commonly associated with welfare and freedom, but too much choice causes the feeling of less happiness, less satisfaction and can even lead to paralysis.” We’ve been there, done that, and we have the t-shirt.

So, with that in mind, we are recommending two approaches to attacking your habit-changing journey: Tiny Habits and The Power of Habit. We’ve tried both, and both methods work.

  • Tiny Habits. Click here to get started. It’s rather a simple approach: you distill the change you want to make into simple tasks, and you join those tasks to something you already do. Example, you put the vitamin bottle beside your toothbrush and tie the act of taking your vitamin in the morning before you brush your teeth. Now, you never forget to take you vitamin because you always brush your teeth. When you join the program (free!!), you get a Tiny habits coach that works with you over the 5 days. It’s quite literally life-changing.

  • Read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Charles Duhigg has done the research, and we’ve benefitted from it. The best way to approach it? We recommend that you watch a few of his videos (TEDx talk and others), and then read the book. Then apply.

Step Three: Prepare yourself mentally, physically and environmentally

Twenty-one days. Wrong! This number comes from a widely popular 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces. What we know today is that according to current research, the time it takes to form a habit really isn't that clear-cut. “Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days; furthermore, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.” The takeaway: changing any habit takes time, a lot of time, and that’s totally normal.

Step Four: Adjust and refine

Make adjustments as you need to and refine your approach. If Tiny Habits isn’t working, try something else. If you didn’t like Charles’ book, find another one. The most important thing to remember is this: change is hard, and it’s not for lack of willpower that you’re struggling. If your habits don’t change, you are not a failure; you’re just a work in progress. Aren’t we all?