New Year’s resolution is silly! or not? Turn “Cultivate Results” to “Cultivate Habits”

New Year has always been a symbol of a fresh start, new hope, and a new you at the end of it. So it came to be a surprise to me that not everyone makes new year’s resolution. Some don’t because they find it doesn’t work. I love making them since my early twenties though I never really achieve them most of the time. Ops. It was not until I found that making them (items in my resolution) a habit is the key to achieving my new year’s resolution.

 

 

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Keep climbing the ‘resolution’ wall

 

 

You probably agree that knowing “why” you want to change is one key point in reaching your goals (reminding yourself why you’re doing this at the first place whenever you feel like giving up), so I wouldn’t talk about that. This post is about how I keep going, in a practical way, while knowing “why” I’m doing it.

 

According to Statistics Brain Research Institute, only 58% of people make new year’s resolution and only 9.2% of them were successful in achieving it at the end of the year [1]. Fitness and healthier diet are on the top of the list. But new gym memberships that surged up in January, quickly diminished by February. No matter it is because of laziness or busyness in life that we think might have prevented us from achieving our resolution, I found an answer for that.

 

A Personal Story

I was never an athletic girl. I mean I love to play (who don’t when they were a kid) but I never find sports fun or interesting. I have always been a skinny, underweight girl. Furthermore, I don’t eat much, which many health problems come from diet, so I didn’t think I need to exercise. I thought I was pretty healthy then.

 

But one day, when I was climbing up the stairs, I stopped at a certain floor and I was thinking to myself “Gosh, I’m in my twenties but I can’t even climb up these floors without getting out of breath.” So, from that day onwards, I decided that I, finally, need exercise. Not for the sake of getting into shape, or solving any serious health problem, it was just to increase stamina.

 

I’d learned that setting your goals very specifically can increase the possibility of achieving them and keeps you motivated. So I set “Run 5km non-stop at the end of the year.” Instead of the vague “healthier and fitter me”, I’d set a number, a measurable goal – 5km. But I did not achieve that. So the following year, I set the same thing because “never give up”, right?

 

Change Result to Habit

Here’s the thing: some changes require time, probably few years. If the goals are worth it, like being healthier or clearing your debts (because you are becoming more financially prudent), you would like to stick to it till you get it.

 

Therefore, if setting a specific goal for new year resolution can be discouraging to you (like I was), may I suggest setting habit instead. Habits that will eventually reach that big goal. These are smaller goals (if I can say) that are attainable and more efficient in my opinion. So instead of setting my 5km goal, I set “exercise 3 times per week, 30min each” and assimilate this into the daily routine so that it can become a habit. When I turn my new year’s resolution from achieving a ‘result’ (5km) into ‘habit’ (3x per week), I felt I am finally getting my resolution – to be fitter and increased stamina, especially when I walk up the stairs these days.

 

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.” – Charles Duhigg.

 

How Habit works?

Humans are creature of habits. Habit helps keep us sane. Imagine you need to “decide” to brush your teeth or drive to work, every single day. Urghh. Habit can also be bad habit, like scrolling down social media for hours on your bed before sleep. But here we want to focus on cultivating good habits. Part of the failure to reach my resolution in the past was I needed more willpower to do those things, even though I know it is good for me.

 

Now, how to turn resolution into habit?

 

Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit” enlightened us that habit involves 3-step loop: Cue – Routine – Reward. So, in order to replace a bad habit with a good habit, you just need to replace one of these steps: Routine. Even to cultivate a new habit, you can either change the routine while keeping the cue and reward or create a new loop.

 

Duhigg remarked on a research done in 2002 that people who exercise 3 times per week, actually continued doing it in their lives – fitness has become a habit. And because of a specific reward that they craved for [2].

 

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The habit loop. Source: Duhigg, C. (2012) The Power of Habit, p.52

 

 

So, set a cue for yourself, do the routine and get the reward, which in turn motivates you to do the loop again. Another example say your new year’s resolution is to read more. Instead of “read five books per year”, try “read for 30min before sleep”. Create a Cue: body hit the bed; Routine: read the book from your nightstand; Reward: Impress a friend what you’ve learned from the book. My cue for running is the reminder set on my calendar and my fiancé; routine is running; reward is the sense of accomplishment (plus endorphins) when I view my running record on the running app.

 

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It may take some time to cultivate the habit, but you’ll get there. And you will achieve your new year’s resolution when that becomes a habit!

 

♥   ♥   ♥

 

Share your experiences or tips on how you achieved your new year’s resolution. I would love to learn from you too!

 

References:
[1] http://www.thestar.com.my “Sticking to your New Year’s resolution”, Friday, 2 February 2018.
[2] The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, page 51.

 

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