It’s December, which means that 11 months of 2015 have gone by. What was this year’s resolution? Did it stick? Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
You might think it’s a bit early to think about a New Year’s resolution so early on, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The best time to implement it is now. And the easiest way to make sure you keep it is to create a habit around it.
I’ve learned a lot this past year about forming habits, and created ones that I never thought were possible.
A few weeks ago, Sweet Pea and I met a little girl in the puzzles section of the library. The two of them started playing together, and her mother and I exchanged smiles.
“How old is she?” she asked, gesturing to Sweet Pea.
“A year and a half,” I replied, trying my hardest not to say “almost 19 months.”
“Oh! I have 18 month old twins at home!” she says. We discovered that out that our babies were only born 3 days apart.
My daughter is a good kid, but she’s becoming more and more demanding of my time. She’s always “busy” and usually wants me to join in with whatever she’s doing, no matter the time or place. Saying: “I’m cooking,” “I’m eating,” or “I have to go to the bathroom” are meaningless phrases that aren’t effective in excusing me from whatever plans she has for me at that moment.
Then I asked the mother: “How do you do it? With twins? I know they’re the same age as my girl, I can’t imagine having two of her running around.”
Her reply was simple.
“You know… I just do it. There is no other way. Diapers need to be changed, bottles need to be made… I just do it. And I’m grateful.”
You can take this same approach to guarantee your new years resolution will be fulfilled, if you create a habit around them. This can be as simple as setting up a trigger = action formula.
One of the habits I formed this year was getting up at 3:37am every morning.
It was painful. There were times when I slept through my alarm. There were times when I pressed snooze every minute for 2 hours straight. And everytime I failed at getting out of bed that early, I felt guilty that I lied to myself. I betrayed my goal – the simple goal of getting out of bed. How hard could that be? I literally only had to get out of bed, and not continue to lay lifeless for another few hours.
I would bargain with myself. “Oh, but you got a lot done yesterday, you deserve to sleep in.”
“You didn’t fall asleep until late last night, so you should sleep a bit more just to compensate.”
“You have a busy day today, you need all the rest you can get.”
Not one of these times when I convinced myself that continuing to sleep was the better idea, was ever the better idea. Why did I keep lying to myself? I set my alarm when I was all lucid and determined, and when it came time to follow through I was like: “nah, just kidding.”
Eventually, I trained myself to just get up. I had no choice, and just did it. It became easier over time, and I found myself beating my alarm to the punch some days when I was feeling extra rested. One of the big catalysts was that I realized Sweet Pea would interrupt me less if I got up right away. We still bedshare, and if I let the alarm go through a few snoozes, she would drift into lighter stages of sleep, eventually crying back for me sooner rather than later. If I escaped from bed and shut off the alarm right away, it wouldn’t disrupt her sleep and I’d get a few solid hours of work time before she woke up again.
Trigger: alarm = Action: get out of bed.
Eliminate all the “but what ifs.” There’s actually a great website called If This Then That where you can set up “recipes” to accomplish tasks on the internet. For example, you can have your account post to Twitter every time you post to Instagram. Or have it send you a notification if you don’t meet your daily Fitbit goal. The program doesn’t say: “Oh but what if they didn’t want food photos posted to Twitter?” Or: “What if they had a busy day and couldn’t exercise?”
It just does it. When the trigger is activated, the action is done without question.
Make your goals just as non-negotiable!
Action: Don’t smoke.
You can add other things into the action like gum, mints, or inhalers… But just make sure you don’t smoke. If you can’t quit cold turkey, then set a definite schedule to wean off. Eliminate the number of cigarettes little by little on a dedicated timetable.
As soon as 2014 hit, he stopped. And followed through with his plan every time he had a craving. He did have mints, and gum, and inhalers. He did everything he possibly could to not have a cigarette, because it wasn’t an option anymore. He made that deal with himself non-negotiable.