Lose 20 pounds. Hit the gym daily. Drink less.
What do these and 99% of all New Year’s resolutions have in common? They’re forgotten by February and we’re back to our normal selves. Lucky for us (and less lucky for the Mister Donut next to my apartment), this is the year we’re going to stick to our goals and turn our resolutions into habits.
A typical resolutioner wakes up on January 1st, feeling a little bit groggy from that last glass of champagne that they probably shouldn’t have had, but definitely motivated and ready to face a new year. They’ll dust off their running shoes, throw on some sweats, and gallop outside ready to show the world this is their time. They’ll run a couple miles and think, wow…I should do this every day…I feel great! As most of you can imagine, that motivation lasts for a day, and is quickly replaced by sore legs and a hunger for donuts (just me?).
This brings us to our first lesson. Start small. The easiest way to build a new habit is to take baby steps. Most people are so excited for the year that they forget that there are 365 days to reach their goal. There’s no reason to burn out before the confetti is swept up from Time’s Square, so take your time, and enjoy the ride.
Equally important to sticking to your newfound goal is having a plan. But moreso than having any old plan, have a realistic plan. I’m not gonna go from running a mile 3 times a year to running a marathon by February, but I may be able to run a 5k by March, a 10k by August, and who knows, maybe even a half marathon by the end of the year. Good things take time, and there’s no harm in taking it slow.
Now that we have our plan, we’ve got to make sure we stick to it – and what better way to stick to a plan than knowing there’s a reward at the end of it. Good news, running day is now donut day! (That may seem a little counterintuitive, so feel free to pick a more realistic reward for your new habit.) Whatever it is, you can at least give yourself some credit for getting through the task, and enjoy each and every success.
To make all of this even easier for you, we can add in the final lesson from our good friend Pavlov (and his dog). Set reminders for yourself to trigger your new habit. If you want to stick to running, go to sleep in your (clean) running clothes, and set your shoes next to your bed. You’ll wake up and see yourself in running gear, feel like an idiot for a few seconds, but then remember that you planned to go running that morning. Whatever reminder you choose, find something that is a fairly natural daily occurrence (like waking up and looking in the mirror), and you’ll have a much easier time following through.
Whatever your resolution may be, know that it is fully in your power to reach your goal. It may not happen in a month or two months or even within the year, but at a minimum you’ll set in place habits which will be much easier to stick to. Now get out there, pound the pavement, and feel free to reward yourself with a donut or two – I know I will.