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New Year, New Habits! Ah, but will they stick?

January 4, 2018

Sue Redmond, PhD

This time of year, people abound with resolutions to create changes in their lives. A new year, a new leaf! What many people find is that by February the initial energy that gets people started dissipates and they go back to their ingrained ways of behaving. The gyms that were full the first weeks in January begin to empty out, commitments to write or meditate daily fade as life gets ‘too busy’ to keep to the new goals.

Implementing and changing habits is a lot like brushing your teeth. If you do it daily, you get results and you don’t have to experience the drill at the dentist’s office. If you don’t do it every day, you won’t. Developing new habits requires that you create a new ritual daily, until that behaviour becomes your new way of being. After around 30 days of daily implementation this new pattern of behaviour starts to become easier for you to implement.

Starting and stopping interrupts your commitment, the mind starts to show you other things that you can spend your time at. This is when it becomes more difficult to keep the momentum, this is when doubts creep in and suggestions like ‘you’re only missing this one session’. However, what people find is that after they miss one session, it’s easier to miss another and another. Then before they know it, building in this new habit becomes a thing of the past.

Whether it is taking up running, starting to meditate, starting to write, taking up cooking nutritious food or letting go of a behaviour you no longer value there are a few things that help. Having a daily ritual, almost like a pilot before take-off. Consider what are the things that you need to do each day to live your life the way you want to. Small changes implemented each day can result in massive changes over 365 days. The old question of ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ – The answer ‘one bite at a time. So, take it one step at a time and you are more likely to create the habits you want in your life.

I always think a good first step is to reflect on the achievements of the previous year. So, grab yourself a nice journal one that you will only use annually for this purpose. Review your entire previous year, the highs, the learnings, the achievements, the celebrations. See it all in its full glory. You’ll do this process every year and it will become the book of your life, now wouldn’t that be nice instead of the scraps of paper or notes here and there.

When you have that done, on a new page, consider the following for this new year:

  1. What is truly important to you? (Health & vitality, family & friends, career, finances, relationship, adventure, fun etc., etc.,) Make a list in order of importance.

  2. What goals would you like to achieve in this coming year? (What things do you want to start? What things do you want to stop? What would make your heart sing?)

  3. Decide how you are going to reach these goals, what do you need to give in order to have success in these areas?

  4. Now create a mini-ritual that you are going to implement every day. Each person is unique so having their own mini-ritual to help get them started and recommit every day to their goals and habits.

My morning ritual is this; meditation for an hour, followed by connecting with what I am grateful for, then sending Metta (which is sending love and compassion out into the world), then I set three goals for the day, week or month that I want to work towards and achieve. I follow this with some journaling as I find it embeds further my intention and other ideas emerge about how I might achieve these goals. If I want additional energy around something that is particularly sticky I record a paragraph of what I would like my brain to hear – self-hypnosis and listen to it at night as I drop off to sleep. I use this to give me momentum in business, life and sport.

Here’s a short 10-minute version

My evening ritual is this; meditation, followed by reflecting on what is great and amazing in my life, then how I could make my life better and finally, I consider who I could thank. This gives me the fuel to continually evolve and change depending on what is happening in my life.

I also meet a coach via Skype to keep me on track with my goals and hold me accountable to myself.

Finally, a wonderful support is either finding a peer group or setting one up. When I started training in triathlon’s I never thought that an Ironman was something that I would do. When I joined my local club and trained with others, suddenly this became something that was possible. Surrounding yourself with people who are already doing what you would like to do will propel you forward much faster. It saves you time because you will learn from them and their mistakes so you don’t have to make them. When I went out on my own over 3 years ago and set up my business I also set up a group of female entrepreneurs who were similarly at an early stage of setting up their businesses. We all had different backgrounds and interest which helped us support and learn from each other in those early days. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with, choose your peer group wisely and if it doesn’t exist create one to take you where you want to go.

Wishing you a fabulous New Year!