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How to Create Habits, Not Resolutions.

Are you someone who is always poised on the New Year’s starting block ready to take off and live up to all those resolutions you’ve made? If you are, here’s sobering news. On average, 80% of New Year's resolutions are broken four to five weeks after they are made.

If you want to experience real and lasting change in your life, create habits, not resolutions. Resolutions are easy to disregard and forget. Habits are harder to form because it takes some degree of discipline, but they are harder than resolutions to disregard and forget. This makes habits more valuable in the long run.

It Takes 66 Days for a Habit to Become Automatic

Discipline shapes our behavior and helps make our actions more automatic. We groom ourselves through repetition to act a certain way. Habits begin settling into place after three to four weeks, but it takes about 66 days for a habit to become automatic.

When we make resolutions, we usually think big, making promises and setting unrealistic goals based on what we wish we could do. While our habits become cemented into our daily lives, resolutions are attached to us like paper clips, easily slipping off and discarded.

Here are eight thoughts to keep in mind when choosing to make habits, not resolutions.

1. Confucius noted a long journey begins with one small step. It is the same with forming habits. If you want to start walking on the treadmill before going to work, get up a few minutes early and walk for five minutes. Build your routine from there.

2. Repetition is a key ingredient to forming habits. I knew a fellow who would go to the gym every day, sometimes only to sit in the lobby. I asked him why. He said he wanted to keep in the habit of going to the gym, even when he didn’t feel like exercising.

3. Create an association with another activity. Going back to the treadmill, if you have a favorite TV program you enjoy watching, treadmill while watching the program. Soon you’ll find your body memory telling you to walk on the treadmill, even without the TV.

4. Forming habits doesn’t sound like fun, especially when discipline is involved. Try to make the activity enjoyable, even rewarding. If you have a favorite snack, reward yourself at some point during the day for meeting your treadmill goals. Make it a healthy snack.

5. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." But when you are forming habits, consistency is crucial. For example, plan to treadmill at the same every day. It will become a part of your daily routine.

6. How you approach the project of forming a habit can make or break your effort to succeed. Your success will depend on whether or not you consider it a matter of lifestyle change, rather than a quick fix. It has to be important to you. You have to know the “why.” You have to see a long-term value, such as feeling more fit and energetic after weeks of consistent exercise.

7. If the habit you want to create is connected to goals you have set, make sure you are setting the right kind of goals, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Your exercise goals may be long-term, requiring more time to complete.

8. Focus on one habit at a time. Even if you are good at multi-tasking, when you are laser focused on forming one habit, you will dedicate the mental, emotional, and physical energy to that specific habit. Keep focused on the treadmill goals, instead of trying to diet and stop smoking all at the same time, as admirable as those goals might be.

Leave Room for Creativity

While forming good habits is optimum, and a good way to break bad habits, you should leave room for creative moments and the ability to adapt to life’s ever-changing landscape. Holding onto even a good habit too tight, when it should be changed or abandoned, can be counter-productive. As Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Habit is a great deadener.”

Here’s a good exercise to try. Choose a bad habit you have. Consider how long you’ve had it, how it was formed, and what you could learn from this exercise that will help you form good habits. One bad habit you need to “kick” is the habit of making resolutions instead of habits.

In God’s Words

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (1 Peter 1:13)

Also read: Psalm 4:23, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:2

In Your Words

Do you make New Year’s resolutions every year? If yes, recall what they were and how many you kept. Did any turn into habits? If yes, describe the circumstances.

Choose a habit you would like to form and commit to the discipline it will take to make it happen. What tips listed above will help you? Describe why.

In the Words of Others

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Norman Vincent Peale


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