We have all been there: all geared up to change our life with ambitious resolutions for the New Year. Yet, hand on heart: how long do they normally last? A week? A month? Why does it seem so difficult to stick to resolutions that made so much sense when we decided to adopt them?
The answer is that we were not really committed to them. We felt motivated at the time, but then we let our emotions take over and we fell back into old habits. If we base our decision on a momentary sense of motivation, the decision will always be dependent on our emotional state at the time. However, real commitment endures, no matter what our emotions tell us. So to change a habit, we need to have a clear and strong commitment.
Here is how to go about it:
1. Explore the exact reasons behind the current habit you want to change. The habit holds a message that you need to listen to. What is the payoff you get from the habit? For example, why exactly do you overeat, drink too much or avoid the gym? We need to understand those reasons, before we can change the habit. Sometimes this requires us to sit through some painful emotions and listen carefully.
2. Once you understand the payoff from your current habit, find a substitute that will give you the same payoff without the negative side effects. For example, if you overeat because it calms you down, how can you achieve the same calm state without food? Maybe by maintaining a thought journal? Through meditation? Exercise?
3. Identify the triggers for the habit you want to change. How can you avoid these triggers? If you cannot avoid them, can you find a new way of reacting to the triggers? Create a Plan B for the moment when your emotions interfere with your commitment. This strategy needs to be ready for you so that you do not need to think about it at the time of temptation.
4. Clearly define the new habit you wish to adopt. How will it benefit you? If your new habit is a “should” or “must”, it probably does not truly inspire you, and you are bound to fail. Explore the benefits, and your reasons for following this new habit, as clearly as possible until you are excited and fully fired up.
5. Set yourself a measurable goal, and plan a reward that you will give yourself when you have achieved the goal.
6. Ask someone to hold you accountable for sticking to your commitment. This could be a friend, a family member or, even better, an unbiased coach.
7. Let your commitment be stronger than your emotions. Every time you decide in favour of the new habit, you make a strengthening decision which will make it easier for you to choose the new habit again next time. Every time you give in to the old habit, it will become more difficult to resist your temptation next time.
Ready to try this out? Do contact me if you have any questions.
Want something even bigger than New Year’s Resolutions? Make 2016 your year of change by creating an inspiring new life plan at my workshop “Masterful Life Planning 2016” on 30 January 2015: http://www.masterfulliving.co.uk/
Happy New Year!