Happy New Year! I know many of us are ready for a new year and a new beginning. It’s another chance to make positive changes in your life, but what resolution or goal will actually bring you the most powerful result?
If you are a planner like me, you might enjoy thinking through what area of your life you want to focus on and what you would like to start doing, stop doing , or change. See: Setting Successful New Year’s Resolutions for the full details.
However, even the most detailed plans are nothing without taking action, so the second step is really the key: Creating a new habit that will help you keep your resolution.
Even if you skip the first part and just pick a positive habit you will adopt this year, you will see the benefits. The most powerful change you can make in the New Year is to create a new habit that serves you.
What habit to pick? There are many habits you can choose from. In the past, I have adopted habits like writing daily gratitudes and acknowledgments, having daily contact with nature (by walking our dog in the park), creating a daily meditative practice (by doing Tai Chi in the park in the morning), and journaling every morning. Each habit was adopted in a different year, which has allowed me to really get used to each one and layer in each habit with the previous ones. And every one has been pretty powerful. I have definitely started other habits as well throughout the year, but I didn’t implement them as consistently as the ONE habit I selected to commit to for the year.
The key is to start very small, so you can definitely do it and have cue that tells you when to do it each day. For more details see: See: How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions – 5 Minutes at a Time
While there are many habits that might come to mind immediately, like ones related to fitness goals, healthy eating or saving more money, here are a couple of powerful habits that I have found to really make a difference if you want to be happier.
- Enjoy each step on the way toward your goal
We think that reaching a goal will make us happy, but that is simply not true. Why? From an evolutionary perspective, we have learned that pleasure or pain follows immediately after behavior, so we have trouble connecting that the actions we take now lead to success in a few months. But when we focus on the pleasurable feeling we get as we make progress toward a goal, we now have a series of happy moments every step of the way.
So if the goals are just means, not ends, we need to focus on the pleasure of the journey to increase our well being and happiness. We need to enjoy the here and now while we are working toward a goal. . (For more info see: How to Set Goals that Make You Happy)
Because our society tells us otherwise, this habit takes quite a bit of effort to implement. I would regularly think of what I am currently work towards and then remind myself that what really matters is enjoying each step on the way toward the goal
- The Contentment Habit
I got the name for this habit from Leo Bautista, author of Zen Habits. He explains that most of us have Discontentment habits. We see people around us doing great things – traveling, eating amazing food, going to fun events, and wish you were doing something like that, too. This never ends, because no matter how many great things you do, there will always be someone else doing things you are not doing and posting it on Facebook. Then you look at yourself and think you need to improve yourself. This never ends either, since you could always be fitter, more productive, more successful, etc. You might also feel like you could be doing more. The same problem here – there is always more you could be doing. So these discontentment habits are never ending and don’t make you happier in the process.
The Contentment habit is the opposite: When you find yourself having any of these discontented thoughts, turn to where you are right in this moment. Stop what you are doing and notice everything – your breath, your body, your surroundings. Realize this moment is as precious as any other moment, because you are alive. See the wonder in the moment – the miracle of your body, of your consciousness, of the building you are in or the nature that is surrounding you. (For more info see: The Contentment Habit)
Are you ready to make a powerful change in your life? What habit will you adopt this year?