Last week I talked about how to choose New Year’s resolutions that will make you happy. Of course, making resolutions is just the first part – the part that is usually more difficult is actually keeping them.
The best way I have found to keep my resolutions is by making them into habits.
Many of us try to keep our resolutions through sheer willpower. The problem is that we only get so much willpower each day. Every time we try to make a decision about something, we deplete it. So instead of relying on willpower alone, we can conserve our energy and build new habits instead.
When I wanted to meditate 3 years ago, I started by sitting on the balcony every morning for 5 minutes and focusing on my breath. This habit has evolved over time – since our doggie Rafa came into our life, I now take him on a walk in the morning and at the end of the walk, I practice Tai Chi for 10 – 15 minutes. That is now my daily meditative practice. I realized that Tai Chi works well for me, since I found sitting still for long periods very difficult, and Tai Chi allows me to move – it’s almost like a slow dance. So if sitting meditation isn’t for you, experiment with different practices until you find one you enjoy!
This year, I wanted to begin writing more regularly again, so I started a habit to write for 10 minutes every morning. To make it even simpler to get started, I am writing about anything that comes into my head. No need to come up with great ideas before I start writing!
So how can you keep your resolution by making it into a habit? I found that there are 5 key factors:
- Make the habit small enough, so you feel like you can definitely do it. If you feel like it’s too big of a task, it’s easy to come up with excuses and put it off. That’s why I start with 5 or 10 minutes. If that seems too long, you can even start with 1 minute. The most important part is to get started. You can always expand later.
- Do your habit consistently – ideally daily. I have found that my schedule is so different on weekends, that I focus on doing my habits on weekdays. That gives me enough continuity to keep on going.
- Choose a cue so you remember doing your habit. For example, my reminder for taking Rafa out is after breakfast. My cue for beginning to write is sitting down at my desk in the morning.
- Focus on 1 habit at a time. I know it is tempting to want to incorporate many new habits at a time once we have decided that we want to change something. But it takes about 30 days to build a new habit, so focus on 1 habit for a month. You have 11 more months in the year for more habits! =)
- Remember why you are doing this habit. What is so important about this resolution? What will keeping it give you? Use this as fuel to keep you moving forward.
Do you have a resolution and habit in mind already that you want to begin doing this year?
The wonderful thing is that you can start with anything! Just be specific. For example:
– I will write down 5 daily gratitudes at the end of the day, right after eating dinner.
– I will eat one piece of fruit with every lunch.
– I will read a book for 5 minutes when I go to bed.
What habit will you start this year to create the life you want?