Forget Resolutions: To Be Successful in 2018, Focus on Your Habits

Have you ever set yourself a New Year’s Resolution?  Or is your every Monday a groundhog day of broken promises to yourself?

It’s interesting, as humans we are fantastic at creating bad habits.  Smoker, regular over-eater, sofa surfer, social-media addict, Netflix binge-watcher…the list goes on, and I’ve been guilty of several myself.  Those bad boys just creep in with very little effort, and establish themselves as part of our lives without us even noticing.

The worst bit is the impact that a bad habit can have on us.

What are we not doing as we check our phones for the hundredth time today?  

What impact has skipping that walk had on our health, mindset, and overall wellbeing?  

The key to success is consistency, and if you’re anything like me, that’s something you may struggle with.  Maybe it’s because you believe you’re an ‘all or nothing type’, or maybe you’ve set yourself an unachievable goal.  Whatever it is, there’s still plenty of ways you can cut through the excuses and make it happen.

Whilst a good habit doesn’t seem to come just as easy as the bad ones, there are ways we can make it easier for ourselves.  With that in mind, here are seven pointers on how to set up good habits in your life:

1. Keep it simple

Change one thing at a time, being very specific. If you want to be more confident, then taking time out of your day to reflect on what you did well is a specific action.  Or using the 5 second rule…that you will speak up within 5 seconds of coming up with your idea.

2. Rehearse it

Sports people know how important this is.  If it’s in the muscle, you’ll find it much easier to do when you really need it.  For example, take breathing to help you feel calmer in stressful situations.  Regularly practise a breathing pattern (e.g. in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8) when you get up.  When the habit is required, your brain and body know exactly what it needs to do.

3. Set yourself up for success by linking your new habit with another

For instance, you want to create a daily habit of doing a breathing exercise, then it’s best to link it with something you already do daily.  You create an association between the old habit and the new habit with a ‘before I…’, or ‘after I…’.  In this example you might decide that ‘after I get into bed I will do my breathing exercise’.  You can create links with all kinds of things ‘every time I get into the car I will…’, ‘everytime I stop at traffic lights I will…’, on my way to meetings I will…’ etc.  Our life is filled with habitual behaviours that we can piggyback on.

4. Keep the behaviours you want to change in your conscious mind

This can be done in many ways.  There are multiple apps out there that can help you create a new habit, and even turn it into a game.  A few post-its in key places (make sure you move them and change colours etc. so your brain still registers them).  Setting your password on your PC ‘Br3ath3Deeply’ or something similar, can give you several prompts during the day.

5. Recognise and reward changes – in line with the improvement

You often hear people say, if I do that run, then I can have a chocolate bar.  You know you’re being ridiculous, but lots of us reward ourselves with something that will undo the good work.  Think up some rewards ahead of time that work with your goal.  For instance, if your goal is to be more confident at speaking up in meetings, and the habit you have chosen to work on is focusing on your posture and core strength before the meeting (‘before I walk into the meeting room I will straighten up and breathe into my core’), then a reward for remembering to do this for a day/ week might be to get a new top for work that you feel great in.

6. Positive reflection

This is the ultimate in rewiring your brain for the behaviour you want. Every day (‘before I go to bed I will positively reflect on my day, taking special notice of the new habits I’m working on’), spend some time reflecting on what you did well, the changes you made, and vividly replay those in your head.  Effectively it’s a double-whammy, your brain is tricked into thinking you did it again, even though you’re just imagining it!

7. Be kind to yourself!

Recognise it takes time to make a positive change.

Go forth and create some habits you actually want to keep this coming year!