By: Kayla Van Egdom
A quick google search reveals that up to 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. There are so many reasons why this happens.
Sometimes people treat January 1st like this magical day where they can overhaul everything all at once and achieve a radical transformation instantaneously.
Sometimes people write down resolutions or think about them at the beginning of the year, but then forget all about them. There’s no system in place to track progress.
Sometimes people get impatient with themselves and the journey, and the frustration causes them to give up altogether.
And when I say people, I’m referring to myself just as much as anyone. I’ve been guilty of setting lofty goals on January 1st and abandoning some of them a few months or even weeks later. I’ve been guilty of letting impatience and frustration steer me off course. It caused me to search for another way to get the most out of every year.
I shifted from a goal focus to a habit focus at the beginning of 2020, and it was life-changing. In spite of being in the middle of a pandemic, cancelling a wedding, and breaking up with my significant other, I still managed to make more progress towards my goals than I had in any other year. The best part was that I enjoyed the journey a thousand times more and achieved the calm, centered power I’d always wanted to feel on my journey towards my best self.
Mark Manson calls goals (or resolutions) a spending mindset. With goals or resolutions, we set out to put a temporary effort into achieving something specific, whether that’s weight loss or getting out of debt or launching a business. He calls habits an investing mindset. When we build key habits, we become versions of ourselves that can take on more. Then we can re-invest those efforts into building even better habits until we’ve not only achieved whatever it is we’ve dreamed of achieving, but have achieved it in such a way where it’ll be sustainable and last for as long as we keep up these habits.
How to shift from resolutions to habits:
Think about any goal you might have for yourself, and then consider what habits are going to move you closer to that goal. If the goal is weight loss, maybe your habit is mindful eating or creating an evening routine that sets you up for the best sleep possible. If the goal is improving your finances, maybe the habit is tracking your spending or following a budget. Brainstorm as many habits as you can think of.
Pick one or two of the habits from your list that you think will be the most beneficial, and start practicing these right away.
Create a minimum standard for your habits on days where you’re tired or overwhelmed or unmotivated. We want to continue our key habits, especially on those days we don’t feel like it. One of my habits this year is to do a gratitude list and a list of personal wins for every day. In a perfect world, I’d do this in my journal or on my writing program. But if there’s a day where I can’t get to my computer in the evening, I still make sure I list off a few things I’m grateful for and a few wins I had in my head whenever I get the chance (even if it’s just while brushing my teeth before bed).
Track your consistency. This made such a difference for me when it came to building habits. It can be a spreadsheet, or X’s on a special calendar or a table like the one I’ve created. When we’re tracking something, we pay more attention to it. We’re reminded of the importance of daily consistent action.
Once you’ve become consistent in those one or two habits, either find ways to re-invest your efforts either by taking those habits to the next level (for example, if you’ve been meditating for at least five minutes a day for a few months, can you start working your way up to ten minutes, or maybe twice a day?) or maybe adding in new habits altogether. Remember to make them habits that will have the biggest payoff.
I committed to tracking 8 key habits last year. I didn’t start building all 8 habits at once – I had already started building many of them in 2019 or even earlier. I noticed that throughout the year, I was making the most progress towards my goals when I was consistent in these daily disciplines. I also noticed that I felt my best during these times.
This year, I’ve committed to using this same process. I’ve reviewed my habits and kept the important ones, and also added others that I know will have a huge pay-off over the course of the year. I’ve also been more specific about what each habit looks like, and I’ve created my minimum standard for each habit as well.
We are what we repeatedly do, not what we temporarily decide to work towards. What will you repeatedly do this year that will bring you closer to who you want to be in every area of your life?