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This New Year your only resolution will be to change one habit. That’s it. And, if you do it well many, many other habits will follow and you won’t even have to think about it. Want to know the secret?
All habits are created for the same reason and they can either serve you well or poorly says Charles Duhigg who wrote The Power of Habit. Either way, you’ve created them because there is some payoff. With negative habits, all ‘reasons’ are excuses to justify that payoff, so you can hate me (or Duhigg) if you want or you can choose to find another payoff. It’s up to you. I will like you either way and remind you again on many occasions.
Choose the tough hotspot hurdle: your keystone habit. See what your brain just did? It picked the hard one (Exercise? Give up chips? No snacking after dinner? Eat more vegetables?) and then instantly rationalized why changing that habit won’t work for you. That excuse is your payoff. Figure out what you get out of that bad habit and we are getting somewhere. You are no different than anyone else, sorry. The reasons are quite common:
Rest assured, others have broken these habits and felt better for it. There is a cascade of positivity that happens when you overcome such hurdles. But there is a system that must be employed to be successful. It is simple.
Once you discover the payoff, you must replace the habit. Simple willpower in shutting it down doesn’t work. This applies to every habit in your life and once you know how to manage it, you will know how to change just about everything.
Now that you have chosen your replacement habit, you need to give yourself a cue and a system to start the new habit. Pick the same time each day and do the new thing routinely. Leave your sneakers in full view or leave your veggies chopped and arranged at the front of the fridge. Do not ‘redecide’ each day. It isn’t an option. Exercise can start with a 5 minute walk to the mailbox—but once you are there, you will find that you want to do one more lap. The trick is to never, ever let yourself off the hook for those 5 minutes. Ever. They will grow on their own.
This habit we have in North America of making resolutions and laughing at ourselves for breaking them is our collective way of accepting the status quo. But the cream of the crop manages to make enough change to stay on top—you can too.
No matter the day on which January 1 falls, it feels like a Monday. Time to begin another diet and daily exercise routine just like the Monday before. No wonder weight loss programs and gyms see a huge spike during the first week of January. My guess is that losing weight and becoming healthier are the most common New Year’s resolutions on peoples’ lists—mine included. This year, however, I’m thinking of what else I might want to tackle with increased vigour and motivation. I’ve included some of my ideas, along with invited resolutions from friends and family below (in random order):
1. Take time for oneself. One friend wrote that he’d like to return to meditation. He accepts that life is different since becoming a dad. The two hours he used to put aside each day for silent reflection is no longer possible. However, he has realized that instead of working through his lunch hour, he can close his office door and use that quiet space and time to get back to meditating. Other ways to take time for oneself may include, as one friend wrote, to ‘take up passions of my younger years, such as piano and flute and dance!’ And from one mother: ‘To think of myself FIRST. This is not the same as: Think of myself ONLY. Frankly, you are better for everyone else if you take care of yourself first. Mothers forget that,’ she wrote.
2. Make time for others. Some of the resolutions I received included ‘do a good deed for someone every day,’ ‘take up volunteer work’ and ‘see my friends once a week instead of only once a month.’ One friend said she was planning to ‘help others more with advice or actions rather than with things.’
3. Clear the clutter. Several people—myself included—want to create more empty space in their lives. Conquering the pile of papers, medical receipts, bills, birthday cards and kids’ projects may seem insurmountable at first, but as you sort through, throw out, categorize and put away, you’ll feel the heaviness of seeing that pile collecting dust fall away. Clearing clutter also includes sorting through and eliminating clothes that you haven’t worn in a year or longer. If you have a difficult time parting with ‘stuff’ you may find it helpful to put the old unwanted items into a bag, knot it tightly and write the date on the outside. Place it in the garage. Then, if you haven’t looked for those items within six months of that date, donate the bag of items to a charitable organization. The trick is not to open the bag once it’s knotted or you’ll want to bring ‘stuff’ back inside the house.
4. Spend wisely. One resolution I received was to ‘pay all household bills on time and to not over use credit cards.’ Another was to not spend on impulse, but to think longer before making purchases that may not seem as necessary tomorrow as they do today. Also, to clip coupons and take them with you when shopping.
5. Floss every day. Despite how tired you are at the end of the day, remember the long term consequences of not taking care of yourself. Along with flossing, some resolutions I received included remembering to drink more water, eat healthier food and to actually take the supplements and vitamins you bought to keep your body healthy—instead of waiting for them to expire and then discarding them.
6. Don’t fall behind. Do you find that there is often leftover laundry from the week’s pile when it’s time to begin again? My resolution is to keep up so that there’s nothing undone by the beginning of the following laundry week. And how about keeping up to date with 8 mm video tapes and photo albums—real or virtual—cataloguing, dating and organizing for future reference? Keeping on top of routine chores can be tiresome, but a necessary evil unless you’re prepared to deal with daunting tasks when you finally get around to tackling them later on.
7. Face fears. Some resolutions included tackling a fear of flying, the dentist and heights. Others included getting back in touch with a friend or family member after a period of separation, despite the fear of possible rejection. Quitting smoking, fighting a bad habit or confronting an internal demon may be difficult but empowering.
8. Better oneself. Several great resolutions included going back to school to further an education or begin a change of career. Some resolutions were being less judgemental of others and one great mom wrote: ‘Accepting the fact that my adult children don’t have to agree with me all the time. They are entitled to their own opinions and shouldn’t be berated for them.’ Another wrote: ‘I will look for the positive in any human being.’
9. Appreciate family. I have resolved to call my mother-in-law more often and to remember and appreciate that she is the reason my husband came to be. Several great resolutions included putting technology aside to focus on family more. One mom said she planned on leaving her laptop and BlackBerry at home when on family vacations or on outings together. A wife and mom wrote about her plans to get to know her husband again. She felt that after years of hard work and time away from one another, she had ignored their relationship. Her resolution was to work on that. One grandmother said she planned on spending more quality time with her granddaughter.
10.Give thanks and stay positive. One wise friend wrote, ‘I resolve to treat each day and person as something special and not simply wait for a holiday or New Year’s day or any so-called ‘special’ day to be grateful and appreciative of those people and circumstances around me.’ Another wrote, ‘I want to try to live in the moment. To be present in the now and appreciate everything that I have.’ Amen.