It is a new year. With all things new, we tend to have our hopes set very high. It is common, especially when the year is at it’s start to have high hopes for the things that will change in the coming year. The bad habits that we’ve formed over the past years, we hope to discontinue. We also hope to somehow work our way toward a healthier & happier life in the year ahead by forging new habits with some sort of immense willpower which has, until January the first, alluded us. Our expectations may be unrealistic & our efforts laughable, at times. After having no exercise routine for years we suddenly hope to run 5 miles a day, 6 days out of the week. After drinking soda daily since we were teens, we hope to drink only water, herbal tea and probiotic rich drinks. But, just because we sometimes set unrealistic goals for ourselves does not mean that new habits are futile to try to attain. On the contrary, new & wholesome habits are important and worthy goals set. There are better ways to go about it, however, than strictly by grunt-force willpower.
1. One at a time. Habits are formed through doing them, not by resolving to do them. For this reason it is best to choose one habit at a time to work on. It takes a great deal of energy to make the decision to do something new each time you must do it. For instance, if you do not have the habit of walking each morning, it takes just as much effort to decide to put on your gear and get out the door as it does to actually do the walking. Once the effort of decision is less, you can move on to more habits that you’d like to form, but not until then, lest you abandon the progress you’ve made on the first habit.
2. Specific, Measurable, attainable, reasonable, trackable. You’ve probably already heard of making goals that are “S.M.A.R.T”. Remember to make your goals each of the things listed above. It is better to say, “I’m going to eat at least 2 green vegetables a day,” than “I’m going to get healthier this year.” If you can measure a goal, you’ll know whether you’ve reached it or not. If you cannot measure a goal, you can easily fool your own mind into believing that you’ve attained it, even without evidence.
3. Once your goals or habits have become easier, move on to solidifying them in such a way as it will be difficult to break them in the future. Try to be sure you do them 21 times in a row, without pause. Notice how much easier it is each time.
4. Wagons & Trains. You’ve probably heard habits described as ruts in a road that makes it easier for a wagon to find its way with ease. They’ve also been described as putting down track for a train to later follow on easily. Whichever way you look at it, habits are the pre-cursors that we follow on, often without thought.
5. Good or Bad. Because it would require too much effort to think through each action, habits are actually little blessings throughout our day. If you had to pay heed to things like tying your shoes each time that you did it and decide to do it a different way each time, your mind would be full of that action & unable to think ahead to some of the heavier decisions that had to be made throughout the day. One thing is certain, we are forming habits all throughout the day, every day. Not making your bed each morning is just as much habit as making your bed. Eating sugary cereal and coffee is just as much habit as eating veggies and eggs. You are laying down rails through habits. Is the railway taking you where you want to go?