Turning Resolution into Habit

The turn of the year is a popular time to indulge the aspirational self via annual resolutions. This cultural habit is welcomed by a myriad of industry leaders keen to revamp your shortcomings for a small price. 

I and many of my good friends are very familiar with the cyclical commitments of resolutions. All too often a well-intentioned goal is reprioritized to the background once the holiday season falls away and our daily routines kick into high gear.  Even if your calendar marks a definitive end to the year and promises a clean slate moving forward, there is no physical boundary for the new year. 

The fad diet mentality does not translate into long term personal growth

If you want to incorporate something into your life, the new year can be an inspiring time to make a change. However, the new year does not demand a resolution and a new commitment should be for yourself not to fill a cultural norm. If something is nagging at your consciousness and you have been meaning to start or you have been working on existing goals through the year, the momentum of the holiday can be that push you need to wrap up a project or make a start. With all things, there is an ebb and flow to this momentum. The weight of the holiday will subside with time as is expected but there is no need to bemoan the cycle. Use it to your advantage and don’t ignore its limitations. A new calendar will not give you the energy to write a tome or run a marathon.

Know your why or why not

I suspect if you have not made a start towards your goals when the holiday arrives your reason for not doing so will remain in the new year. The aspirational self follows us all year itching to be realized. Discovering why you have been procrastinating will remove far more barriers to growth than the pledge of revolution. So, take some time and reflect on what has been keeping you from reaching your goals. 

Winterlights at Naumkeag

In my recent posts you know that I have explored my values through the lens of minimalism as a tool to discover what brings meaning to my life and where to focus my energy to enrich my experience. I have spent a lot of time journaling, reading and distancing myself from the noise of the digital age.

An amazing tool that I came across on my self-discovery expedition was the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. The findings from this book and associated strengths assessment have been instrumental in my understanding of where my energy can create the most value base on my innate talents and personality characteristics. If you are looking to focus on your career goals or better understand your tendencies for personal growth this is a great book to add to your reading list.

Below are some of the questions I have been exploring. I hope they will help you to identify where best to focus your energy in the coming year. 

  1. Where is my joy?
  2. What did I enjoy most when I was a child?
  3. What am I doing when I feel most powerful?
  4. What is the work that I can’t not do?
  5. Who do I admire most and why?

Psychology’s Secret Weapon

The mind is both our greatest weapon and our greatest weakness for creating change. If you are ready to kickstart your goals this year, why not put science on your side. In my book club, I have been reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  by Charles Duhigg and I am fascinated to learn about the psychology of habit construction and how we can use it to our advantage. 

“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

One of the most powerful passages I found is the “Golden Rule of Habit Change”. In the past, when I am looking to make a change, I have typically been trying to snuff out a bad habit. One year I may be trying to be less of a couch potato, decrease the amount of refined sugar I eat or limit the time wasted on social media. While these are all well-intentioned, I can’t say that I have succeeded in any resolution that cut something out of my life without filling the void left by its absence. 

It is not sufficient to simply replace bad habits, the new ones have to be as emotionally compelling as their forbearers. Otherwise, we will crave the habits we are trying so hard to leave behind. Much of the craving we experience for habit is subliminal and the mechanisms that make habits addicting can be hidden when they are engrained in our routine. Understanding what makes habits stick can be an incredibly powerful tool to enable you to deconstruct habits you wish to break and to structure the appropriate environment for new habits to flourish. The main components of a habit are encapsulated in what Duhigg has coined the habit loop. 

“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP”

Charles Duhigg,The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

I highly suggest picking up this read if you are interested in the inner workings of the mind and want to better understand how you can use them to your advantage to help realize your goals. 

I am very optimistic about the new year and will not be making any formal resolution at the turn of the decade. My focus in full steam ahead on my existing goals and I do not feel the need to add another task to my plate for fear of being distracted from the bigger picture. 

This past year my focus has been on building a routine outside of my traditional work that nourished my soul. To create this routine I have tried reading more books, getting back into a childhood hobby (horseback riding), dating myself (quality me time), and finding time to exercise every day. To say the least, it is all a work in progress.

This journey of personal growth and self-discovery has motivated me to rediscover and engage my passions and I can’t wait to share my experiences.

Enjoy this Post?

Check out the inspiration for this content below to learn more about habit creation.

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