Why do so many people hit the gym and buy more self-help books in January (both gyms and the self-help books’ publishing see a huge jump in sales in the first 2 months of each year) and then… go back to the old habits? Why, for most people, New Year resolutions stay just as “resolutions” and do not turn into habits?
Here are a few reasons:
1. People often motivate themselves from the “I should, I must, I have to” place and don’t take time to connect their goals to their bigger ‘why’, to the reasons why it’s important to them. As positive motivation is missing from the start, the shoulds-based drive cannot sustain itself for very long.
2. Similarly, when we don’t take time to create an achievable and time-limited action plan, divide our goal into sub-goals and then come up with weekly (and, if you like, daily) steps, the scale of the big goal overwhelms us and makes us procrastinate or drop it altogether. For instance, for someone who pledges to lose 10 kilograms but has no habit of exercising, that goal will remain a fantasy unless they’d be willing to lower the bar into more reasonable sub-goals (eg a kg per month) and come up with weekly or daily fun but small ways to get there.
3. Because our big goals are so important and close to our heart, they trigger all kinds of fears: of failure, of success, of judgement, of not being good enough. If we do not consciously recognize and scan those fears, they will reign the day and stop us from acting.
So, what to do instead?
Take half an hour to ask yourself some key questions:
1. Imagine your life a year from now. Not accomplishing what task or project would make you feel most frustrated with yourself, most embarrassed or unsuccessful? Additional question: what one important thing you really wanted to do last year but somehow dropped the ball on or postponed or procrastinated on? There is high likelihood that you’ll have a similar answer to both questions above and that is your big project.
3. Why is this important to you? Why do you want to do it? What will it give you – think of both internal and external rewards, eg how you will feel, your state of mind, what impact it would have on your professional and private life. The answers will lead to your motivation, your bigger life purpose.
4. What are your fears about doing it? What will happen if you achieve the goal? What’s the scariest bit? What stopped you from accomplishing it last year? The fears will continue sabotaging your project unless you shed light on them: they thrive in the darkness and shrink in the light. It might also help to reflect on what’s bigger: the fears or the frustration and pain you feel (and will feel more strongly in a year!) if you don’t move forward and act on your big desires and goals.
5. What kind of system do you need to put in place to make it happen this year? Consider starting your day with an hour dedicated to your project, instead of immersing yourself into urgent daily tasks. The project that is dearest to us is usually not the urgent one and has no deadline, hence we tend to drop it from our list or attend to it last. Consider creating your own deadlines or…(see next point.)
6. Who do you need to ask or hire to support you? Tapping into your people power and enlisting the support of a mentor, a coach, an accountability partner, a colleague, or your entire network will make a huge difference. Not being shy about using their network or asking people is what defines and distinguishes successful people from others.
7. Start with a weekly (or if you’re ambitious like me, a daily) baby step and don’t forget to reward yourself after acting on it.
This is the way to develop new habits – a new way of thinking, a new way of being and acting.
Here’s to the new, happier and more active, YOU in 2014!