We are now into the second full week of the year. In just 4 more weeks, roughly 80 percent of people who have made a resolution will have dropped them. According to research, Strava has defined January 19th as “Quitters Day”. This is where most people have given up on resolutions. They have probably tried, failed, tried again and failed only to become discouraged and not attempt again. Some might not even get that far and have only gotten to the point of listing the goal/resolution on paper. Whether you are maintaining your diligence on your resolutions or you failed by the end of New Years Day, either way you are still ok. You are ok, because you can pick right back up where you left off. You can start again today or you might need a little extra encouragement to continue on your journey.
Change the Name
One thing that can help with having some success with your goals, is to change the way you discuss them. Let’s start by moving away from calling them Resolutions. I would encourage you to focus on the idea of Changing Your Habits. It could be creating a new habit or removing an old habit. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day or quitting smoking; either way, is not a resolution, it is forming a new habit. By changing the name of it, it changes the way the brain processes. It puts you into a better starting position.
Imagine a track meet, you have everyone on the starting line. Half are standing straight up and the other half are down in the starting position, legs braced, hands on the starting line, ready to launch. That half that is standing straight up can still run the race, but they have put themselves into a bad starting position….the same holds true for us and how we label things.
“I’m terrible at remembering to drink enough water.”
“I’m just not a morning person.”
Those type of comments prime your brain for actions that will confirm that line of thinking. Instead, think…
“I’m getting more water intake today than yesterday.”
“I’m waking up 15 minutes before my normal time.”
By making these small changes in the thought process, the change process is in a better starting position.
Law of Small Choices
The old saying goes, the best way to eat the elephant is one bite at a time. There is a lot of truth in this statement, small bites, small victories, small choices…they all start adding up over time. The war over what you are dealing with isn’t won in one transaction, it is the accumulation of small wins…small choices. In James Clear’s Atomic Habits, he references a notion of 1%. This idea is that by focusing on getting just 1% better each day, by the end of the year…365 days…you will be nearly 37% better. The opposite can happen too by making bad choices, make enough small bad choices and you can end up worse off than before.
Once you decide on what you are working on, the choices can become easier. Before turning on the tv, before eating that cookie, before hitting the snooze, ask yourself….”is this decision helping me get to my goal?”
The small choices begin to add up and accumulate into a new habit forming. The key is to understand the things that enable you to make good or bad choices. Reinforce those that help you make good ones and begin to remove those that enable the bad choices. In regards to diet, many times you will hear that if the food isn’t there to eat, you can’t eat it. By removing it, a small choice, it helps to make better choices and each one builds upon itself.
Fall in Love with the Process
We have talked about resolutions and goals, now I am going to shift on you. Goals are great to have to get your mindset focused on things you want to accomplish, but at the same time, they limit you. Too many times things stay as an item on a list or in your brain. To start seeing real change, you must fall in love with the process. The goal may be to become 37% better by the end of the year, but that is made up of 1% processes daily, throughout the year. If you can’t enjoy the process, the results will be harder to obtain and maintain.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear really opened my eyes to a number of things. There’s an example referenced in the book about melting ice. I think its a great example in understanding the concept of loving the process. It’s also a great example of how people respond to you as well. The idea is that, picture an ice cube on the table. The room is cold. Below freezing actually. You can see your breath, you can feel the tingling in your fingers, you shiver and wish you had some gloves on. Ok, now, in the room it’s around 25 degrees. Someone turns the heat on. Soon, it’s 26, the 27, then 28. You can feel the room warming some with each degree it moves up, but the ice cube…it’ still frozen solid.
29 degrees, 30 degrees, 31 degrees, and then 32 degrees. At that point the ice cube starts melting. Nothing had happened from all those changes, and then suddenly it did. The ice cube wouldn’t have changed had the temp not changed. One degree at a time. One percent at at time. The process is what got it there. It wasn’t really that one degree change, but the all those other degree changes….the process.
Stay with it. Keep it up. One day at a time. Remember, the elephant will be eaten..one bite at a time.