January 1st, 2018

‘Tis the season and all that. Because I took a one-day retreat at River’s Edge last month, I’m now on the mailing list for their newsletter, The Edge. The January issue offers three tips for not setting yourself up to fail if you made any New Year’s resolutions.

Eric Zimmer, writing in 3 Keys to Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick (even if you’ve tried before and failed), suggests:

Can you guess the difference between people who are successful with their New Year’s resolutions and those who aren’t?

If you guessed strong willpower, a doctorate degree or secretly having superpowers, you’re wrong.

It’s pretty simple, actually. There are 3 things that they do that the folks who give up by January 15th don’t do. Want to know what they are?
First, take small steps.

Leo Babauta says, “Make it so easy you can’t say no”. Break your new habit down into baby steps. Make these steps so small and easy that you don’t need motivation to do them. Sometimes the motivation comes AFTER you engage in the behavior. You may think at first that you’re not making much progress or that you can

do more so why not set your increments higher. The truth which has been proven time and time again across multiple disciplines is that a series of small steps add up surprisingly fast.

For example, if you want to build a 10 minute per day meditation habit, start with 30 seconds and increase by 5 second intervals each day. Or, if you want to build a habit of running 30 minutes a day 5 days per week, start with running 1 minute each day and increasing by 15 second intervals each day. Let’s say you want to build a healthy eating habit. Start by replacing 1 of your breakfast pop tarts with 1 piece of fruit and increase by incorporating or replacing 1 item of food at a time.

The second key to lasting change is to get super specific ahead of time.

Essentially, plan ahead to know exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.

Not only is ambiguity a primary cause for procrastination but planning ahead for when things go wrong means that you don’t have to decide what you’ll do along with when and where you’ll do it AND at the same time muster up the motivation to do all of this in the heat of the moment. Knowing the when and the what takes away the element of mustering up the self control needed in the moment.

For example, don’t just say that you’re going to start exercising more. Get specific in your plan: tomorrow I am going to go by the gym after work and inquire about memberships. Or, plan that you will go on a 15 minute brisk walk in your neighborhood after work this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Want to eat healthier? Plan that on Sunday, you’re going to prep and pack a healthy lunch for each day in the upcoming week to take to work and eat.

The third and final key is to install a trigger. What’s a trigger, you ask?

A trigger is simply a prompt or a reminder to do something.

When we’re trying to build a new habit into our routine, it’s easy to go into autopilot mode and either forget to do this new habit or get caught up doing something else and run out of time. If you plant a trigger ahead of time to remind you to do the new thing you want to do when you want to do it, you’re much more likely to successfully follow through with your plan. When your environment nudges you in the right direction, it helps you stick with a new habit.

Setting the alarm on your smartphone to go off at a certain time to remind you to do this new thing, putting the behavior on your to do list, and posting any kind of sign – like a post it note on the door reminding you to set the alarm, are all examples of triggers that will help you remember to do this thing you have such good intentions to do.

Zimmer will speak January 20 at River’s Edge on Making Lasting Change in Your Life.

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