Picking the right time to change a habit is one of the important factors to consider in order to succeed. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Many of us, at some time in our lives, recognise the value of overhauling certain habits that no longer serve us.
Resolutions can be notoriously difficult to keep. Perhaps this is why we have nominated the first day of the year to their formulation and the initiation of our commitment - we have assigned a special day, as if that were to give our resolutions more momentum.
Whether it be quitting smoking, starting regular exercise, or spending more time with the family, there are factors to keep in mind to help those resolutions stick!
1. When do I start?
In keeping with society's popular notion, perhaps New Year's Day does work for you. The idea of a fresh year may also conjure sufficient fresh resolve.
However, it doesn't have to be January 1, to initiate a healthy new habit or get rid of an old one. It is more likely we can summon and sustain the necessary commitment if we begin a new habit on a day where there's not significant other issues occurring which may detract from our resolve. For example, starting a healthy diet around times of celebration such as a birthday may be more difficult.
2. Change is difficult.
If it wasn't, we'd already have incorporated the would-be habit into our lives. Making resolutions is easy enough, but sustaining them may be more challenging, after initial enthusiasm ebbs. For this reason, try to make your resolution a realistic one. It is going to be easier to stick to 20 minutes of exercise five days per week, rather than an hour each day. The other consideration is to consider just transforming one area of your life at a time. Losing weight, saving money and quitting smoking may be too much all at once, leading to a crumbling of our commitment. Pick one that is most important to you. When you have conquered one old habit, you can then confidently start overcoming others.
3. Weigh up the Pros and Cons
Before we decide whether a Resolution is right for us, it is wise to consider the advantages and disadvantages making this change will have. Going to the gym may effect positive changes such as having more energy and losing weight. However, what will the cost be? Will you have the time? Are you prepared to sacrifice the costs to reap the rewards? If the pros outweigh the cons, you are more likely to succeed.
Weighing up the Pros and Cons of a particular change can help us get in touch with our personal values - what is most important to us - and whether they resonate with us.
Change is much more likely to succeed if it is aligned with your personal values, not society's or someone else's.
4. Consider and plan for hiccups.
As mentioned, keeping resolutions is hard work! It is not being negative, but prudent, to forecast any challenges that may arise, and plan for them. For example, how will you cope with a plan to quit smoking when you're around your pals who also engage in the habit? Will you spend less time with them or ask them not to smoke around you, for example?
5. And if you get off track?
If you succumb to old habits and find yourself not having been to the gym for four or five days, for example, don't despair! Just get back on track as soon as possible!
One very common mistake is for people to say "well, I've done it now!" if they say, break their diet, and then make a thoroughly good job of emptying the fridge! Remember - it's hard! It is actually a valuable learning opportunity to examine what went wrong. What triggered a relapse into old ways? What thoughts and feelings did you have that led to the cave in of will? If you examine the chain of events closely enough, you can identify problem thoughts and emotions that triggered the return to old behaviour. What alternative thoughts and feelings could you have had?
Recognise and acknowledge that you have succeeded, you just got a little off track. Once you have identified what went wrong, you are in a position to know how to prevent it next time.
And validate yourself for the time you've already clocked up living your new habit! Well done!
6. Reward yourself!
If quitting smoking was your goal, for example, perhaps you can use the money you saved to buy something you have really been looking forward to having. By linking your new behaviour to positive reinforcement, you are strengthening the likelihood it will continue. As well as enjoy the "pros" your new resolution has brought about, you are celebrating what is a real achievement.
Resolutions are easy to make, challenging to keep, but, if they aligned with your personal value system, can be highly rewarding as you prove to yourself you are stronger than you think.