On the heels a new year, and I am already hearing discussions, seeing commercials, and reading social media referencing new resolutions for next year.
For me, I have stopped trying to conquer New Year resolutions, knowing they are not realistic. We set ourselves up for failure by stating what we choose as resolutions without a way to realize our goals. The commitment wasn’t there yet it always felt like failure when I gave up a day, or a week into the new year.
In a recent discussion that touched on resolutions, the suggestion was made to work on beginning a new habit or changing an old pattern instead of working on a New Year’s resolution. It sounded like the same thing but after researching it a bit, I can see how one will work and the other sets you up to fail.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
A Resolution is the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones. The act of solving and determining.
A Habit is an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.
So, while a resolution is the decision to make a change, it can be a battle with your will and emotions. A habit is created through repeated practice in a new action or activity. The end result if achieved by both a resolution and a habit may look the same, but the process is very different – along with the success rates.
Jack Canfield, author of the “Chicken Soup” series says it takes 21 days to create a habit. It is a longer time than I’ve held on to most resolutions, but if it sticks as a habit, then it is worth the process.
And what are that optimal steps to take in building a successful habit? The question is answered in a 3-fold process according to the New York Best Seller book, “The Power of Habits” by Charles Dunhigg. The book shares the process of identifying a habit and its parts to understand how it became habit, and if it is a habit you want to keep or change for a more positive outcome. The three parts include;
CUE: Is the trigger which initiates a specific habit or action. The cue can be a time, place, conversation, memory, song, smell or other type of emotional trigger.
ACTION: The action is the habit, it is the activity and steps taken to complete the pattern in order to receive a reward. The action might be lighting up a cigarette, eating something, going for a walk, making a drink, losing a temper, getting upset or other responses. They become a routine behavior and often done without thinking. Even mindless strumming through social media platforms can become a habit.
REWARD: Once triggered, and the action is complete, there will be the equivalent of a result or reward. Identifying the reward can be the hardest and most important step. When the sought reward is identified you can create a plan to change to your actions to more positive ones, that still leads to the same reward.
New habits will not be formed immediately and so it is important to be intentional in performing the activities using specific cues in order to gain / achieve the desired reward. As stated, it takes 21-30 days to form a habit. When you create and establish a new habit you are actually creating physical patterns in your brain.
John Assaraf, a leading expert in mindset and behavior, says new patterns begin like small paths, the more you use them the more ingrained and deeper they become. The use transforms the pathway from a walking path, to a dirt road, then paved road and ultimately a highway. Eventually it will become larger than the old pattern (which will shrink from lack of use), will become the new dominant pattern or habit, and will become the new automatic response.
This year, instead of making resolutions that won’t last, think about your habits and patterns. What habits do you want to begin in 2019? What rewards are you looking to achieve? What habits are you looking to change?
We all have habits that have developed from positive and negative patterns. Fortunately understanding the makeup of a habit, we now have the knowledge and ability to change existing and create new patterns that better meet our goals. Make the changes you want in your life – One new habit at a time.
Happy New Year!