As we are in the middle of February, if you’re like most people, you have already begun to slack off on your resolutions for the new year. Maybe you still think about them, and maybe you think those are still great goals, but you haven’t been acting on them in a while. Maybe they were too lofty in the first place, or maybe they weren’t the goals you really wanted, but what you thought you were supposed to want. Now might be a good time to revise your goals and really start to work towards them by creating good new habits.
Any change worth making it worth taking the time to think through. We are, essentially, creatures of habit. We do best when we have a regular schedule and routine. We also do best when whatever changes we are trying to make work well with the schedule we are already working from. For example, if I want to start to meditate, it helps if I can find a good time for it that flows well with the rest of my day instead of thinking I will carve out an hour at some point that requires making arrangements or some other great effort. We think in terms of grand gestures and big efforts, but the reality is that most of our actions are rather ordinary, and making changes requires us to look at who we really are and what we really do today instead of who we would like to be in a perfect world.
The other thing we tend to do when we want to make changes is overcommit ourselves. It isn’t recommended to go from working out never to going to the gym for an hour every day. It sounds like a great goal, but it isn’t sustainable – not to mention, it’s probably a great way to get injured. We are more likely to do it if we plan to do it a couple of times a week for a month or two, then increase another day and another over time. What we do when we set impossible standards is that we do try to go every day to the gym, but then we have to work late or our kid gets sick, or some other thing that cannot be avoided gets in the way. We may excuse ourselves the once, but then it eats away at us as if it’s a failure, and we’re likely to do it again until we just stop going. Sound familiar? By planning to go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, however, I can always find time to make it up if something unexpected happens that gets in my way.
The final thing to remember about creating habits is that they are not easy to create. There are many theories about how many times we must do something before it becomes a habit, everything from three to a thousand repetitions. How a habit gets created depends on the habit itself, how motivated we are to do it, what we are replacing, and what kind of support we have in our lives to do so, among other things. It takes time to create habits, maybe a lot of time if it’s something that isn’t natural to us or that we don’t particularly like to do, like eating healthy or exercising. You may find your new show bingeing habit is much easier to establish and maintain.
Take some time to create good goals and then be specific about how you’re going to achieve them. Also, remember to cut yourself a break if you aren’t immediately successful. Good habits take time.