January feels like the perfect time for a fresh start. We get new planners, we buy new tennis shoes, we make resolutions, and the possibilities seem endless! And then February comes, and we probably find ourselves in the majority of people who tend to give up on their new year's resolutions. But an interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that people who make resolutions are more likely to change their habits than those who don't. This makes sense, though. Can you imagine trying to change something that you don't even know you want to change? A resolution is an awareness that you want to change!
In the book, Tiny Habits, the author, Stanford behavioral scientist BJ Fogg recommends a 3 part strategy:
make the action so small and doable that you actually do it (see 2-minute articles)
add the action to a part of your day so that it becomes part of a routine
celebrate after you do it
Think of somethings you do automatically: brushing your teeth, using the restroom, getting dressed before going outside, putting on your shoes, eating breakfast. These things have become habits. They also fit into Fogg's 3-part strategy. Brushing your teeth, for example, is a short, quick (a.k.a., small action). You typically do it when you wake up or after you eat breakfast or before you leave the house; it is a part of your routine. That fresh feeling in your mouth after brushing? That's a mini-celebration! How can you turn other things you want to do into habits?
Here are 6 tips I have used to implement these 3 strategies
Tip #1: Choose small, specific, doable actions to achieve your change
If you want to train for a 5K, you wouldn't start off with running 5K if you have never done that before. Instead, you would make a habit to put on your tennis shoes every morning and walk while your coffee is brewing.
Tip #2: Focus on one habit at a time
Establishing a new habit takes time and effort because you are usually changing a life-long or years-long habit. It may take a while to unlearn the old habit and put a new habit in place.
Tip #3: Add the habit into your routine
Are you trying to add exercise into your day? Try stacking it with an existing habit. For instance, I make coffee every morning. While the coffee is brewing, I have started riding my exercise bike or doing a short yoga video. Some people recommend scheduling exercise into your day. Scheduling has never really worked for me, but adding it into my morning routine has been the best way for me to make exercise a habit.
Tip #4: Get curious about your habits
If something doesn't work, be gentle with yourself and try something else. My scheduling dilemma or trying a gym membership to make myself go never worked for me for very long. Adding it into my morning routine has. There are many ways to do things!
Tip #5: Celebrate daily after you complete something
Celebrating impacts the brain in positive ways (motivation, happiness, top-of-the-world feeling). As a result, you are training your brain to look for the positives. We celebrate births and weddings and other big moments in our lives. Why not celebrate the smaller ones, too?
Tip#6: Align your habits and life buckets
Knowing your "why" can make achieving new habits more doable. One of my earlier blog posts helps you figure out what is important to you!
I have decided to take a month-by-month approach. One thing I want to do is read more. I am following along with Gretchen Ruben's idea of reading for 21 minutes every day of 2021, and have started tracking when I do this. Admittedly, one night I set my alarm for 21 minutes and it seemed like the longest 21 minutes of my life! Most nights, though, I feel like I am just getting into a book when 21 minutes are up, so I will keep reading until I fall asleep. In general, I am reading one of the many self-improvement/business-strategy books that I have. Learning is one of the life buckets I want to focus on in 2021.
I also am doing a yoga video 10 times in the month of January. As someone who has a spotty history with yoga practice, this feels doable and enjoyable. This also fits into my life bucket of health and wellness.
I think 2020 taught us what was really important in our lives. For some it may have been financial, for some it may have been family, for some it may have been health. The most important thing is to be kind to yourself along the way and reassess and readjust as necessary!
What is a habit you want to implement in 2021?