It’s that time of year. We set resolutions for the incredible (or less incredible) things we hope to accomplish this year. And while goals and resolutions are wonderful, I’m here to encourage you to try something different.
Rather than resolutions, let’s build habits in 2018!
A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something”. While firm decisions are great and all, the problem lies in the deciding. When we haven’t created a habit, we must decide over and over and over again. These decisions may be firm at first, but if they’re not habits, they will grow weary and fade away to nothing.
If each day we must wake up and decide to go to the gym…there will come days when we decide against it. If we make going to the gym a habit–if we eliminate the decision-making process–then we are more successful.
As Gretchen Rubin writes in her book on habit-building:
“I concluded that the real key to habits is decision making–or, more accurately, the lack of decision making. A habit requires no decision from me, because I’ve already decided. Am I going to brush my teeth when I wake up? Am I going to take this pill? I decide, then I don’t decide, mindfully, then mindlessly. I shouldn’t worry about making healthy choices. I should make one healthy choice, and then stop choosing. This freedom from decision making is crucial, because when I have to decide–which often involves resisting temptation or postponing gratification–I tax my self-control.”
Why build habits?
This past year I’ve worked to create new habits. This article illustrates the type of home and mothering process I strive to make habit. The mother who creates routines and systems so that tasks around the home are completed efficiently and regularly. As my mother used to say: “Do it now.”
If I practice the habit of putting my clothes away (in the hamper…or for a re-wear in the closet–please tell me you do this, too) it doesn’t spiral out of control to a huge heap of clothes on my bedroom floor. I make a decision once that I don’t keep clothes on the floor, and then: done. Over and over I’ve built muscle memory to put it away once I remove it. I don’t keep clothes on the floor.
I’ve also found that mess attracts mess. If I leave clothes on the floor, it’s much easier to tell myself when I put that away later, I’ll put this stack of books away, too. Oh, and these cups that need to go to the kitchen. And this extra clothes to pack away for daughter. Instead of clothes on the floor, I now have clothes, books, cups, and more clothes cluttering my room. (the opposite is true, too, thankfully. if my room is clean, I’m less likely to want to add mess to it).
How do we build habits?
One of the best tools to start building habits is to know yourself. (i highly recommend taking the Four Tendencies quiz to find out how you react to external and internal stimuli). You make habits happen when you tap into what motivates you.
After discerning what makes you tick, then it’s finding the best techniques to put habits into your day.
I am fortunate (maybe?) to be motivated both internally and externally. This means I hate letting other people down, so making commitments to others is a great way for me to build a habit (aka finding a gym buddy, who i’d feel terrible standing up). I also dislike letting myself down. I have a strong internal compass for what is right or wrong (in my book) and if I don’t do the thing I think I should do, well…it’s not pretty. (so maybe not so fortunate…but effective!).
Being internally motivated means that finding a tool like a bullet journal has been life-changing! My personality meshes well with the habit of bullet journaling. Each evening or morning I make my list of things for the next day: birthdays, events, tasks, notes to self. Throughout the day I check my list to make sure I’m completing what needs to be done. At the end of the day I take stock and move any unfulfilled items to the next day (this helps my internal voice: it’s okay to move things to the next day!).
Another favorite tool for creating habits is connecting habits. This tool would work well for many people–it takes advantage of already existing habits. I wanted to start flossing my teeth regularly (well, for years I’ve wanted to start flossing my teeth), so I looked at my existing habits and chose one to attach it to. (i chose showering, but this seems awfully personal for you to know i floss in the shower). Because showering is already a habit of mine, it was easy to incorporate flossing into the habit. Now, I don’t make a decision to floss: I just do it…every time I shower.
At the end of the day, we have to want to make habits in order for them to become reality. I encourage you to look at your goals and dreams. Then read some great books: I recommend Better Than Before and also Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Decide to make these changes, and then let the power of habit let you stop deciding! At the end of 2018 I hope you’re looking at a handful of new and helpful habits in your life, rather than unfulfilled resolutions.
Here’s to a wonderful and habit-filled 2018!
Another great book I recommend as you’re looking at this new year is Essentialism. I wrote all about it here. It’s the perfect book for helping discover more about ourselves and discerning what it is we really seek in life. Happy reading!