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How to make habits that will stick.
We all have changes we’d like to make to improve ourselves and our lives. But after failed attempts, we stop believing we can ever form lasting good habits.
Something feels so new and fresh about starting over on January 1st.
The blank boxes on that brand-new wall calendar shine with possibility.
The spine on your brand-spanking-new journal creaks a little when you open it for the first time. Blank pages lie before you, waiting for you to record your amazing story.
(Note: if you’re reading this in June, you can still start anew. The cool thing is, since this is MY life, I can start over whenever I want. My birthday, Monday, or the ever-popular “tomorrow.”)
Sadly, New Year’s resolutions sometimes have an air of guilt and futility about them. Some people don’t even make them because they know they won’t keep them.
Think about it.
We make these promises, that we will fix what is wrong with ourselves, and it all ends up sounding like punishment.
That’s the opposite of inspiring, right?
What are some resolutions that get made and broken over and over?
Work out more.
Sleep around less. (Hey, we’re not all at the same stage in our lives.)
Grind my own flour on a rock.
Stop procrastinating. (I’ve been putting this one off for years!)
Get out of debt.
Will you stick to these? How will you know if you reached your goal?
What will you do the day you break your resolution? Will you give up until next year?
Why do we pick miserable-sounding, boring, vague, negative resolutions?
Why are we so mean to ourselves?
A new way to view your resolutions.
I’ve been around for a while and I know myself pretty well. I know what I am likely to do and not do. I have 48 years of anecdotal evidence.
With this insider knowledge, I have resolved to make realistic new habits that I will want to follow.
I’ve been thinking of ways to turn these resolutions into desirable-sounding activities.
I don’t mean to get all woo-woo, la-la, new age on you, but positive-sounding actions are just more fun to embrace than negative ones. I guess what I’m saying is that I want to learn some good habits that sound appealing. Habits that make me feel like I’m rewarding myself, not just adding chores to my already busy day.
Turning your old-fashioned resolutions into positive habits.
1. Let’s start with the most popular resolution: Lose weight. Eat less. Never eat anything good ever again. That doesn’t sound fun!
Let’s word it more positively: Provide myself healthy choices. Try one new recipe a week. Order a CSA produce box this summer. Keep the fridge stocked with delicious and nutritious options. Enjoy occasional splurges on tasty tidbits that are completely worth it. Grant myself the 5 minutes it takes in the morning to make a fabulous smoothie, even though it’s noisy and makes a mess.
2. Negative (and vague): Get out of debt. Quit buying so much dumb shit.
Positive: Make a plan for my financial security. Pay $500/month of my credit card. Start making a monthly budget, and see where I’m spending too much. Revise it every month this year until I have a budget model that works for ME and my life.
Set an amount of how much I can spend on dumb sh…I mean frivolous purchases. This is actually quite liberating. Instead of an uneasy, guilty feeling that you should spend less, or spend nothing, you’re giving yourself permission to spend $X.00. And that feels like more!
3. Vague: Work out more.
Specific and positive: Go to the gym twice a week for 40 minutes.
Think about how this habit realistically fits into your life. How will you afford it? What times and days will you go? This isn’t set in stone, but at least make a plan for how you will make it work right now.
Ambitious, wannabe CrossFit me says I should go 5 times a week. Realistic me knows that my schedule is sometimes crazy and 5 times isn’t going to happen. Realistic me also knows that last year I went ZERO times, and that twice a week will be much more effective than zero.
And visualize how it will feel. I see myself at World Gym on Tuesday and Thursday mornings after Hannah goes to school. AC/DC music is blasting on the speakers, and I’m actually liking the feeling of stretching and challenging my muscles as I lift weights. And I’m gonna feel better all day because of it.
4. Vague: Hike more.
Specific and positive: Take a hike every Saturday. Plan these at the beginning of each month, so there’s always something to look forward to. Make a Pinterest board of interesting hikes around where I live.
Not every hike has to be a trek up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. Some days are going to be a quick jaunt around the wildlife refuge up the road. Remind yourself why you made this resolution. Fitness? Nature? Companionship? Tiring out your crazy hyper dog? Plan your activities accordingly. And make it fun.
5. Negative: Stop shooting at my neighbor’s chickens when they cock-a-doodle-do.
Positive: Learn to love the chickens and embrace the…wait, nevermind, this one is over my head. I can’t help you. Talk to the neighbor, move to a new neighborhood or get some psychiatric help.
6. Negative, vague and overwhelming: Clear the clutter in my house.
Positive: Select one room or area to focus on decluttering each month this year. Keep and enjoy the things you love or need. Set the rest free to help someone else.
This is another time to visualize what this will feel like, as you’re doing it and when you’re done.
Feel the weight lift as you haul bags of…whatever…out of your house.
And imagine the delight someone else will experience when they get your awesome but no-longer-needed castoffs. That gorgeous dress that never quite fit you right will look stunning on your sister. And those stylish slacks (that you always meant to hem, but never, ever will) are just what the woman at the domestic violence shelter needs for her job interview.
In your mind’s eye, look around the neat, organized, feng shui room. Look at all those unrumpled clothes hanging in your closet. They’re all items that fit and look great and express your personal style. Open your kitchen drawer and grab exactly what you need from the organized dividers with half as much stuff crammed into them.
Focus on what benefit you’re gaining, not on what you’re losing.
The new habits you want to incorporate into your daily life exist to make your life better.
Healthier. Fuller. Happier.
Not just on that magic day in the future when you accomplish your goals, but on an ongoing basis.
Allow yourself to imagine how your life will feel.
Visualize yourself implementing the new habits. What does your day look like? Let me paint a picture of what I envision for myself.
I wake up on time, and well-rested because I went to bed on time last night. I slept well, because I have decided against filling my brain with worry and I know I’m doing my best to control what I can and adapt to what I can’t.
I shower and get dressed into clothing I love. The zipper on my pants glides up a little more easily, now that I’m getting lots of activity and eating tasty food that’s good for me.
I whip up a breakfast smoothie, which allows me to start my day off with a big wallop of nutrition.
I make a go-cup of tea and grab my lunch from the fridge.
I drive to work, listening to my favorite educational podcast. Learning a little something during my 30-minute commute makes me feel extra productive.
I have a great day at work, using my knowledge and skills to the best of my ability. I introduce myself to an employee I have never met before. She seems nice.
There are donuts in the break room. None of them are really my favorites, so I skip them today, mentally promising myself that I’ll indulge next time if I see an apple fritter.
I listen to music on the way home. I greet my husband and my daughter and my dog, who are all thrilled to see me.
I prepare a beautiful tasty dinner, which we eat together at the table, then we take a vigorous stroll on the walking trail that runs behind our house.
I pack tomorrow’s lunches while I’m still feeling healthy and invigorated from our walk, and I’m likely to make good food choices. We sit together in the living room and watch the TV show(s) we agree upon.
I put Hannah to bed. Griff continues watching TV because that’s what he wants to do. It’s his life.
I stay up to peacefully read for a while, then I go to sleep feeling healthy and accomplished.
Life feels good. I feel good. My day-to-day life is pleasant.
I’m still me, but becoming more of the ME I want to be.
The ME I know I can be.
I can’t wait to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.