Most people who make New Years resolutions are not successful. In fact most resolutions never even see February. If, like the majority of people who made New Year resolutions, you are seeing your goals and aspirations circling the drain or about to go on life-support, here are a couple of tips and insights that can help you be successful in all of your attempts to improve yourself and create a better life. So charge up the paddles and get ready to jump-start your resolutions.
Making changes in your life takes willpower. Unfortunately, willpower is a limited resource. Your best strategy is to create a new habit, or replace an undesirable one, because habits are automatic by definition and don't require a constant infusion of willpower. Replacing habits is difficult though, unless you know what makes them tick.
Most people are trying to replace (and have the most trouble with) existing habits rather than creating new ones, so I'll focus on those for this post.
Habits are pretty simple machines. They have only 3 moving parts: Cue, Routine, and Reward. The cue can be an emotional state, a time of day, a place, or an activity. Like Pavlov's bell, the cue creates a craving for an emotional or physical feeling of pleasure (the reward), which results from the routine - which is probably undesirable or you wouldn't be thinking about changing it.
For example, it is 10:30AM, you are feeling bored or fatigued (the cue), you step outside for a smoke (the routine), which feels good, relaxes, and invigorates you (the reward).
The best way to replace a new habit is to keep the cue and the reward, and insert a routine that is healthier, more productive, or more aligned with your goals. In the previous example, you would replace the smoke with a brisk walk or a short visit with a friend or co-worker.
Before you can start tinkering with your habits, you have to understand them, which may require a bit of detective work. Charles Duhigg, in his excellent book "The Power of Habit", recommends keeping a diary for a few days, collecting the following information:
After gathering this information for few days, you'll will notice a pattern emerge that will help you understand what the cue is. You will be able to identify the place, or the time of day, or the emotions, or the activity that triggers the habit. Once you have done that, you can consciously replace the undesirable routine, with the new, desirable routine. Eventually the new habit will replace the old one.
Lastly, make sure you are very clear on the reasons you want to change this habit – whether the goal is being healthier, improving your stamina, or adding years to your life. Be sure to review the ultimate reward for your efforts (not the short term reward of the habit), every day to help provide you with the daily motivation and willpower it takes to create a new habit and a new and better you!
Al Lee, Breathwork Specialist