First post of 2022 🙂 Happy New Year everyone!!! (Two weeks late but nevertheless…)
New Year’s Eve is always a special celebration for me. New month, new year… Somehow, it makes me look back at the year just gone and assess the gains and loses. Make peace, be grateful for the past year, and get ready to welcome the new one.
The arrival of the 1st of January is also when a brand new calendar year starts, and with it, our best hopes and resolutions for the future. We think where we want to go, who we want to be, and set our goals to get there… Or kind of!
I used to be a big fan of New Year resolutions, but the older I get, the less I like feeling the pressure – even my own pressure! So these days, rather than resolutions, I set myself directions I want to walk towards. I guess it is still a softer way of having “resolutions”, but without feeling like a loser if I don’t make it!
Sticking to the resolutions and changes we want to make is not always easy, but it is not impossible either. And better, there is no need to suffer on the path of changing our habits.
This is why I wanted to summarise some of the most effective ways of implementing (and sticking!) to new habits in our lives. Keep your mind open, your personality and preferences in mind, and read on!
This is an interesting way of setting ourselves to change. The first time I heard about it was in a book to quit smoking and, at the time, I was a bit unimpressed – it basically suggested “see yourself as a non-smoker and quitting will be easy”. However, as time passed and I learned more about other ways of implementing this, it started to make sense. To me personally, it is hard and unrealistic to go from black to white (regular smoker vs non-smoker), but easier if we are less radical with this approach (smoker vs “smoker who is really trying to get healthier and quit, despite the cravings”).
Okay, maybe that sounds a bit too long… Easier with another example, say you want to do more exercise in 2022 in order to lose some weight and be fitter. Instead of aiming to become a “gym-rat” (that is a term, right?), you can easily adopt your new identity as someone who will do a small walk every day, or someone who will do 50,000 steps each week.
To sum up, the principles with this approach to change go as follows:
- Decide the type of person you want to be
- Create your path through small wins
Look at 2022 and think, what do you want to achieve? What type of person would achieve this? Once you have your answers, make sure the daily or weekly goals are mini-goals. Something small, easy and within reach so it keeps you motivated.
Now, this is the more popular approach, based on our behaviour and habit routines. I’m sure you can get lots of good ideas from the advice below.
- Slow pace, be patient and kind to your yourself – This is important because if you go into change too strong, chances are that the new routine will be too disruptive and you won’t be able to sustain it long term. The slower we go, the steadier the change, and what we want here are solid new habits that become the new normal.
- Environment matters, a lot! – There is no point in trying to, say, eat more fruit and veg, if our house is surrounded by junk food and artificial snacks. Or if we buy the right food but bury it in inaccesible cupboards. Change is difficult, so make it easy to yourself. Surround yourself by the right triggers and people, and drop the ones that are likely to tempt you and make you fail – this is especially important at the start.
- Enjoy it, the key to sustain change – When we dislike something, we are (obviously) more unlikely to do it. This is why these hard miracle diets, where you have to follow extreme routines do not work long term. They are simply not sustainable. Therefore, if you want your new habits to stick, make sure you enjoy them enough to keep them on.
- New habit, nice reward – This one goes hand in hand with the previous point. Adapting new routines can be difficult, but it becomes easier if we attach them to nicer experiences that we know we enjoy. For example, I love walking but I love it even more with a podcast on my ears and a Soya Matcha latte in my hands (Starbucks are very happy with me!). These are my go-to treats. You could argue that the calories of the Matcha latte make up for the calories I might lose walking, and you might be right, but the key here is to implement the habit first, and then polish it afterwards.
- Identify your obstacles, and have a plan B – Being a bit strategical is important when we want to change habits, especially when it comes to obstacles and barriers. There are certain situations, people or environments that will trigger our weaknesses and make us more likely to fail in maintaining our new goals. Plan ahead, spend some time thinking about this: identify your obstacles and have a plan B in order to be prepared.
- Resilience and consistency – Now, even with our best intentions and results, we are all likely to mess up at some point and go back into old habits. The secret when this happen is to be resilient and consistent. If we are resilient and kind, we are more likely to forgive ourselves and stand up when we fall. If we are consistent, we will keep trying and not give up, which really is the principle for changes to stick long term: repetition.
Changing is hard, and changing long term is ever harder. The key is to know our tools (look above), know ourselves (look inside), and find the sweet spot that makes change not only doable, but also enjoyable.
If you are interested about this subject, here is a great web page full of top resources: