It’s that time of year again.
The time when we think about the things we want to change in the new year.
Because it’s a chance for a fresh start.
Many of us will vow to change and then make resolutions.
And we will do a complete 180 in one (or more) areas of our life.
We last anywhere from ten hours to ten days.
Then we inevitably fall off the wagon and tell ourselves we’ll get back on when February 1st rolls around.
Or March 1st.
Or April 1st.
Then we just give up, and repeat the process when the next December 26th rolls around.
And we do this year after year after year.
This is why I’m not a fan of resolutions.
They are almost impossible to keep.
Because they are too big and they are too vague and they don’t start with the basic building blocks of change:
Habits are the things that affect change.
Because change happens when you do something repeatedly, over and over and over again.
Losing weight is not a habit.
Eating healthier is not a habit.
Exercising more is not a habit.
They are either way too broad, or they are not actions you can perform every day that will get you closer to your goal.
And that’s what you need if you want to make changes in your life.
You need to establish new habits.
Even those of us who decide to start new habits usually aim way too high.
And when we fail, we feel really crappy about ourselves, and then we just give up.
The longer we give up for, the worse we feel about ourselves, and the worse we feel about ourselves, the harder it is to build up the energy to change.
And then we are in a vicious cycle, and we find ourselves fifty pounds heavier than we were when we got married or sitting in a house that at one time was a little bit disorganized and is now a total sh*thole.
Now we are so overwhelmed, we can’t even think about doing anything differently because we just have such a long way to go.
That is probably the biggest mindset shift we need to make in order to really make changes in our lives.
Whether we want to lose weight or run a 5K for the first time or keep the house clean or meal plan, we want to see change immediately.
We want big results with very little time investment.
And it just doesn’t work that way.
Change takes time.
As the saying goes,
Lasting change takes time.
There is no way around it.
And for most of us, we do not have the patience to wait that long to see results.
That’s why our resolutions don’t usually last.
If you REALLY want to see change happen in the upcoming year, you have to commit to new habits.
And to make new habits stick, there are a few things you need to do.
First, you need to make them easy.
Like REALLY easy. And really small.
I know this seems dumb. Or pointless.
Because starting out small will not give you any discernable results immediately.
And that’s frustrating.
BUT, very small and easy habits are sustainable.
And when you string together a week of super small habits, you feel good.
And feeling good helps you to keep going.
That’s why habit trackers are popular.
It is satisfying visually to see those boxes filled in.
When you can color in a row of boxes on a habit tracker, it’s super satisfying.
And you are motivated to keep going. To keep checking off boxes.
String a month of those boxes together, and then you will start to see small changes.
The more success you have, the more likely you are to stick with the changes.
There is something else that happens when you start out small.
You lay the bricks for a solid foundation.
As the bricks are laid, it becomes much easier to build on top of them.
This is called habit stacking.
Once you get a small habit solidified, then you can build up the intensity or the difficulty of the habit.
I have recently done this myself.
One of the participants in my current e-course asked if anyone wanted to join a running challenge with her.
It started on Thanksgiving and it goes through New Year’s Day.
The challenge is to run one mile every day, and by January 1st you will have run 40 miles.
And running, in theory, will become a habit.
From there, you can raise the bar.
You probably wouldn’t run every day, but by January, if you kept up with the challenge, you’d be ready to run more than a mile at a stretch.
Or you could continue with the one mile of running, and add on five minutes of strength training every day.
You’d be ready to stack habits.
I started the running challenge on Thanksgiving.
And I liked it so much and had so much success in the first ten days, that I issued myself a bigger challenge for December.
I challenged myself to run a total of 100 miles in December.
Because I had had lots of success with the smaller, one-mile habit.
Today was Day 26.
I missed a couple days when I was in Long Island at a marathon swim meet with Number 4, 5, and 7.
But by then I had been running daily for two weeks already, and I was in the groove. So missing two days didn’t derail me.
In order to make 100 miles, I needed to average 3.23 miles per day.
With five days left to go, I am at 91.5 miles. I am almost 8 miles ahead of schedule.
This calendar is my tracker, and it feels REALLY good to fill that baby in every day!
Now my new goal is to do 110 miles for the month.
This all started with one mile a day.
If the challenge had been a three mile a day challenge from the beginning, I think it would have been too overwhelming for me, and I would have failed and then quit.
Starting off small allowed me to have success from the beginning and then build from there.
Starting off small and easy and manageable so that you are successful is so important if you want to make changes that will become habits.
Those habits are the things that lead to those broader goals like running a 5K or a marathon or losing a bunch of weight or getting your house organized.
So whittle your goals down.
And then start there.
What is your ultimate goal?
After whittling it way down, what is the first step you need to take to achieve it?
THAT is your first habit to work on.
And that is your starting point for change in 2019.