If you are like most of us, you made a resolution or two to start the New Year. If you were like me, you probably made a wish and then gave a thought or two of planning an action step crossed your mind. The sad news is that there is very little likelihood that anything worthwhile will come from your resolution. One researcher found that by the end of January, 30 percent of us would have failed and by the end of June, over half would have gone by the wayside. Michael Hyatt says that between 150 and 200 million Americans make resolutions and the research shows around 8% succeed with them.
Now about wiping your slate clean and trying something different? Most of us fail at our resolutions because we plop this idea down in the midst of a lifetime of habits. So instead of a resolution, think about changing a habit and see if you can be more successful. Here are five questions to ask yourself. Your answers will be the pathway to a successful change in 2015. By the way, whether the habit is having sweet deserts, Facebook, or interrupting people, the process works the same when it comes to changing a habit. We’re going to talk about sweets, since that is my annual resolution and has been for several years.
- What’s the habit I want to change? The more specifically that you identify the habit, the better you will be able to change it. The answer to this question may take some time. Habits are routines, and most pieces are performed subconsciously. Take some time to think about your trigger. In my case, the difficulty is stopping at a meal. I wanted to go back for second helpings until I developed a habit of having something sweet as a signal to my system that the meal was over. Now I have a new habit of having desert. (I’m not sure which is worse.)
- What’s the replacement for the habit? We can’t create a vacuum in our behaviors or thoughts. We have to find a substitute. In my case, I decided a healthy sweet would be the way to go. So what I want to do is have coffee with a sweetener or maybe some dried cranberries.
- How do I begin strongly? You can’t just ease into a new habit. If you ease your way in, you’ll soon find yourself easing your way back out. Draw a line in the sand. Say or do things like:
–Announce it to people (more on this later).
–Write it down.
–Set a starting day and time.
–Have a clear new routine. My question used to be, “What’s for dessert?” Now, it’s “Ready for some coffee?”
- How do I stay strong? There is no better way to say it that the old cliché: DO NOT DEVIATE DESPITE TEMPTATION. What will you do when tempted? How will you avoid temptations?
- Who will I ask to hold me accountable? If you are a softy, you might want to call this, “Who do I ask for help?” For either question, you are making your behavior change public. Moreover, once you announce it, you make it hard to retreat. If you are making a giant change or an unpleasant one, then think about a support team. There is no limit on the number of supporters you can have. You might even want to work with a coach if you are talking about a deep-seated habit. There is some pretty clear research that making public support does very powerful things to your efforts. id
How will you know when your habit is changed? The answer is that you will know when it feels wrong to not engage in the replacement behavior. Since I’ve given up on desserts, I feel guilt reaching for one when it’s offered. That’s a good sign. Since I’m still tempted, I know I don’t have the new habit in place.
What’s your new habit going to be?