Have you ever wondered why bad habits are so hard to break and good habits take so much effort to stick? It’s usually around this time of the year (New Years) that we take personal inventory of our life and desire to make changes. We call those changes resolutions and we home that they lead to habits. Have you ever wondered why bad habits are so hard to break and good habits take so much effort to stick?
Creating these resolutions is a healthy process for bringing about necessary change in our life. Perhaps you are wanting to improve your physical wellbeing by including more physical activity in your life or removing a nicotine addiction. Maybe you looking to change your financial status by spending less, paying off bills, and saving more for the future. Both are very commendable goals.
Typically speaking, whatever it is we are thinking of doing to improve our life, it’s always easier said than done. Would you agree? One of my favorite discoveries from my own process in 2018 has been, if you truly want things to be different this year, you need to do things differently. We are going to need to break some habits that have been entrenched in our lives for some time now. Next we are going to need to establish some new ones that will move us forward to reach our goals.
1. One Habit at a time. We all know from experience that breaking a bad habit it hard to do. Starting a new one is equally as difficult. Josh explains that the reason we fail to keep New Year’s Resolutions comes down to one letter – “s”. “We need to have the humility to appreciate the difficulty of forming a habit and marshal all of our effort and skill toward one habit.” When we spread ourself too thin with multiple goals we more easily break under the pressure.
2. Bring a Friend with You. Programs like Weight Watchers and AA understand this principle and have amazing results. It’s simply easier when there is someone along side of you coaching and encouraging your efforts.
3. Make it as Easy as Possible. Habits are hard. “It’s not just about trying hard; it is about adjusting your environment to make habit forming easier.” One of his examples is that he keeps a bowl of apples in the middle of the kitchen, and often munches on one or two a day. If there were Snickers in that bowl instead of apples, he would eat Snickers and would gain 50 pounds more. Think smarter and plan ahead to make difficult habits a little easier to handle.
4. The Power of a List. I know that some people don’t have the love affair with lists like I do, but I promise you if you give lists a chance, you’ll see a difference on many levels. Lists can include pros vs cons, projects, people, or priorities just to name a few. Lists will keep you focused and help you to see how “doable” your goals really are. Additionally, as Josh states, with a strong enough why, the how will nearly always take care of itself.
5. The Principle of Replacement. If you’re spending time focused on accomplishing your good habit (exercise, proper dieting, praying), what are you NOT doing? Exactly! As I’m chomping on this big juicy Gala apple, I’m NOT eating those salt & vinegar chips that I was tempted to snack on.
6. Consider Two Good Ways to Form a Habit. Have you ever heard it said, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? Come up with a few different options of how you can begin your habit. “When you get in a cold swimming pool, do you dive in all at once, or wade in slowly?” It’s simply a matter of preference, style, and personality, but either one gets you in the water.
7. Whatever Gets Rewarded, Gets Repeated. Since you’re giving list making a try, create one that shows possible rewards that would motivate you to the finish line. Maybe it could be a new outfit when you loose 10 pounds or Starbucks coffee with your friend every time you finish reading another book of the Bible. Make them marking moments like points on a map and celebrate your victories. It will motivate you, giving you something to look forward to at each level of success.
8. Work Through the Dip. We’ve all experienced days of discouragement and even failure. On those bad days you may want to quit. This is the dip. “Success in many arenas of life is learning to make it through the dip.” Plan for it BUT don’t give in to it! Push through! Your second wind will kick in and you can finish strong.
9. Measure What Matters. I just signed up for The Million Pound Challenge with some friends from my YMCA. One of the many features of the program is that you measure what matters: weight, activity (exercise), sleep, and food intake. Those four things are being measured because they have a direct impact on the habit of living a healthier lifestyle. So, get a journal, create a spreadsheet, or whatever you feel will work to measure what matters in the process of forming your habit.
10. Goals. Brian Tracy says, “Success is about goal-setting; the rest is commentary.” The goal is forming that good habit and it almost always obliterates a negative one. Determining that habit is usually pretty easy. We know pretty clearly the habits we need to get rid of and others that we need to start. Setting attainable goals is a bit more difficult and takes some strategic thinking, but it sets us on a course toward success.
The next step is now up to you. What habit(s) might you need to break to start off your new year? What habits would it be a good idea for you to start in order to move forward in the right direction for 2019? Why not grab a journal and write them down? How do you think your life would be changed if you followed through with just one habit using these 10 steps?
This article is an adaptation of an original article written by Roger Nelmes to help his coaching clients. You can find it on his web site HERE.