Small Changes. Powerful Habits.

powerful habits

Thinking about New Year’s Resolutions? Consider Smaller, Consistent Habits Instead.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Bill Gates

As we approach year’s end, many of us will begin the annual process of planning for the big goals we plan to attain with our new commitments to health and fitness (mental and physical), career and more in the new year.

But as you think about it, how many New Year’s goals have you started over the years? And how many of those goals, particularly the really big ones, have you actually kept?

Interestingly, the Strava social media network for athletes conducted research among its userbase to see just how long the resolutions to get healthier, in particular, really last. The logging activities on the site made it easy to get accurate and specific responses on what people actually achieve versus what they commit and maintain they will do.

After analyzing 31.5 million online global activities, they determined the day most resolutions are ended. Do you want to take a guess? By Saturday, January 12, most 2018 goals had ended – not even a full month! [1]

A study by the University of Scranton showed that 80 percent of all New Year’s Resolutions are destined to fail, most by the second week of February each year. [2] Marketers of gym, yoga and Pilates memberships know the statistics and know that the crowded facilities in January will thin back out after a few weeks.

Giant New Year’s Goals have become an annual tradition. As we relax all restraints during the holidays, we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that January 1 is coming, and all will be resolved as we make our major life changes at the first of the year. Except that for the vast majority of people, we continue to make and break the same big goals like clockwork, with every new year.

Here’s Why Making New Habits is Better

Author James Clear, a physical trainer and motivational coach, has hit the nail on the head by extolling the power of small and consistent habits instead. Clear’s popular book, “Atomic Habits,” has now made the national best seller lists during January for two consecutive years.

What are the secrets he has discovered? They are remarkably simple: When you break a big goal into small habits that you can follow consistently, the benefits you reap over time are profound.

Rather than starting the year with an all-out resolve to do something amazing, Clear suggests you start with a few incredibly small habits that can be as simple as making your bed when you wake up, meditating for a minute a day and perhaps doing 5 pushups a day. [3] The secret is to make the goal so small and so easy to achieve you wouldn’t even think of saying “no.”
Then build each of the habits up slowly, Clear says, increasing the activity by perhaps 1 percent every day. One percent increases add up remarkably quickly, and before long the cumulative effect is profound.

Researchers have shown that 40 percent of our daily activities are governed by habits. So, imagine the power of making the good behaviors you desire so easy to achieve and so habitual you don’t even have to think about them.

This is the process that top athletes and performers adhere to. They are no smarter and better than we are, in many respects. They make mistakes and slip up frequently. But they have put in place the processes to help them course correct as if it were automatic. If they slip up and miss a day, they get directly back onto the horse and make it a rule that they will “never miss twice.”

To increase your health and wellness, your habits might include actions such as drinking a glass of water before you reach for a drink of anything else. Or that you eat a fresh salad before you dive into your largest meal of the day. Maybe you walk 10 minutes before or after each meal or make it a rule to park at least a 5-minute walk away from each destination.

Do these things – record your results – and remove the temptations that make it easier to forget or forego your new goals. By mid-year you will be astonished at all you have accomplished with these seemingly natural and easy habits, and you’ll be able to add a few more. By year’s end, you will likely have accomplished everything you’d set out to achieve in any one of your dramatic do-or-die New Year’s Goals. Why not give it a try this year? And, in fact, why wait until January 1 to begin? Better habits are a strategy you can begin on any day or minute and let the path to your most dramatic achievements begin. Remember, you have the power to choose differently and build new habits that better serve you right now!

[1] New Year’s Resolutions Last Exactly This Long,” by Shareen Kahlil, News.com.au, Dec. 21, 2018.
[2]Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail,” by Joseph Luciani, US News, Dec. 15, 2015.
[3]How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide,” by James Clear, www.JamesClear.com.