Set Habits, Not Resolutions

"Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters."-Nathaniel Emmons

2019 is upon us and with it comes the New Years Resolutions.  Every year people try to start the New Year off with resolutions to change their life, but by February most people have abandoned them.  This year I want to challenge you to do something different.  If you are a person who struggles to keep your resolution then I would say you need to become the person who does what you tell yourself you will do.  How do you do this?  By making the actions a habit and building trust in yourself.  This year I want to challenge you to make habits, not resolutions.

Why are habits so important?  We all have habits whether we realize them are not.  Some of our habits are good.  Some of our habits aren't so good.  Successful people are successful because they have more good habits than unsuccessful people.  It really is that simple.  There are many reasons why habit is so important, but I am not going to go into them here (if you are interested check out  The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg).  I want this to be a practical article, but lets sum up the importance of habits in one statement.  When something is a habit it is harder to NOT do it than it is to do it.  This is why it is so important to have good habits.

If you change your habits you will change your life.  What I want you to do now is think about the person that you want to become.  What habits does that person have that you do not?  You can think about it for yourself or find someone who embodies what you want to be and copy them.  What does this person do every day that you don't?  Are you missing structure in your life?  Are you having trouble being consistent at the gym?  Is your diet jacked up?  Do you have trouble keeping promises to yourself? Take 10-15 minutes and really think about this.  Brainstorm habits on a piece of paper.  Once you have a good solid list I want you to pick out the 12 habits that you think will have the most impact on your life. Make another list of these 12 and put them in order of easiest to acquire to hardest to acquire.  I will put a sample list below to give you an idea.

1. Make bed

2. Don't hit the snooze button

3. Drink 20 oz of water upon waking

4. Clean up after yourself after every meal

5. Eat vegetables at every meal

6. Train 4 days a week

7. Read every day

8. Track your food every day

9. Journal every day

10. Write down 3 things you're thankful for every day

11. Meditate every day

12. Write a thank you note every week

Ok, you have your list of 12 habits you want to acquire.  These will be the 12 habits we want to have by the end of 2019.  What would it look like if you had all 12 of these habits?  Would your life be a lot different?  How would you feel?  Take some time and think about how having these habits would impact you.  This is incredibly important.  If these habits would not have a big impact on your life then you need to come up with other habits.  Most likely they will change your life though.  Something as simple as making your bed ever day can be the catalyst to changing everything about your life.  What you will find is that once you develop one of these habits you will start building trust in yourself.  You will start to believe that you will do what you say you will do.  Then you will build more and more trust with yourself with each additional habit you acquire.  Once you have acquired all 12 habits then nothing will seem too difficult for you to do.  You will get the benefits that the habits bring, sure, but even more importantly you will become the type of person who can change something about their life whenever they want to.  Nothing is impossible to this type of person.

So let's get a game plan.  We want to have acquired all of these habits in 2019.  How do we do it?  We simply acquire one per month.  Trying to do all 12 at once is a recipe for disaster, burnout, and failure.  Number 1 on your list should be the easiest habit to acquire.  Spend the entire month of January making sure you do it every single day.  By the end of the month it will be a habit (habits take anywhere from 14-30 days to be acquired according to most studies).  Then in February move onto the second habit. Make sure and keep doing the first!  It will be habit by now and should be easy to continue but don't let it slack. In March move on to the third, continuing the first and second.  And so on and so forth.  You should be gaining momentum with each passing month, which is why it is important to start with the easier habits and work your way towards the hard habits.  You might not yet be the person who can acquire your hardest habit, but in December after taking on 11 good habits you most likely will be!  

Think a minute about a year from now.  How great would it feel to be the person who has these 12 habits?  Would it change your life?  Would your self esteem be much higher?  Would you be closer to your goals?  I challenge you this year to not set goals, but to acquire habits.  The goals will be a by product of the habits you acquire.  You won't just be achieving certain numbers just for the sake of the numbers.  You will be changing who you are.  And that can make all of the difference.