A New Year's Resolution is something Wee have all made and broken in the past.But bringing awareness to the fact that a New Year's Resolution isn't just a snap decision that can easily be implemented, it is a process, one that can take up to 66 days in fully ingrain into the fabric of our lives.
The definition of a New Year's Resolution is:
“A tradition, most commonly found in the Western Hemisphere in which a person resolves to continue good practices, to change desired traits or behaviours, to accomplish a personal goal or two otherwise improve their life”.
But sticking to a New Year's Resolution is a lot harder than you may think.
When Wee give up, a common tendency is to be hard on ourselves, to feel like a failure and think Wee are not good enough or strong enough to stick to the plan, this simply isn’t the case and forming a new habit is a longer and harder process than just deciding to change, or do something new one day.
A study done, in 2009 by Philippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at UCL, found that on average it takes 66 days for a habit to be ingrained...let that sink in...66 days before something becomes automatic to us, this is part of the reason may people’s New Year's Resolution have failed before February's begun.
What Is A Habit?
Habits, good or bad, are behaviours which are performed automatically because they have been performed frequently in the past.
This repetition creates a mental association between the situation (cue) and action (behaviour) which means that when the cue is encountered, the behaviour is performed automatically.
Motivation vs Procrastination
One of the hardest things about keeping a New Year's Resolution is motivation.
Motivation is finite, it’s like a fire, unless you continue to add fuel, it will burn out.
A common tendency when making a New Years Resolution is setting goals way too high.
When Wee set goals too high, they can become too unattainable and our motivational fire can fizzle out into ashes.
On the other hand, many of us, including myself, can tend to procrastinate over starting something new.
A procrastinator is a person who delays or puts off things, like work, chores and even exercise.
A procrastinator is someone that may leave their Christmas shopping until December 24th...which I’m sure a few of us have done in the past...
This is not productive and procrastinating can often get in the way of us performing at our very best or giving 100% to a task or goal.
Finding the right balance in your life and the right motivation is key to resolute your resolution.
Forming A New Habit
Sometimes it can feel like Wee are Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine, from who Wee are, to who Wee want to be.
Trying to get to that next vine, of who Wee want to be, can at times feel much further and harder than it really is.
This is why it is important to embrace the journey, live in the moment and enjoy the process, after all, the beauty is in the journey, not the destination and to fully appreciate the destination/outcome, you must enjoy the process/journey that got you there.
Forming new habits can be extremely difficult for two reasons:
1. Wee do not understand how habits are structured and how to leverage that structure to our advantage.
2. Wee are attempting to do too much too soon and setting ourselves up for failure.
But there is a process of building a new habit which is divided into four steps:
These four steps are the backbone for every habit and your brain will run through the steps in exactly the same order every time.
Cue - The cue is the trigger to your brain to initiate a behaviour.
Our prehistoric ancestors paid very close attention to cues that signalled the location of primary rewards such as food, water and sex.
Today, however Wee spend most of our time learning cues that predict secondary rewards such as money, power, fame, status, praise, approval, love and friendship.
Our minds are constantly analysing our internal and external environment for rewards. The cue is the first indication that a reward is close, this then leads to the second stage, craving.
Craving - This is the second step of the habit loop and is the fundamental motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation, without a craving, Wee have no reason to act.
What Wee crave it’s not the habit itself, but the change in our state it will deliver.
Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state. Cravings differ from person to person and people will not be motivated by the same cues. Cues are meaningless until they are interpreted. The thoughts, feelings and emotions of the observer are what transfer a cue into a craving.
Response - This is the actual habit you perform which takes the form of a thought or an action.
However, if a particular action requires more physical or mental effort than you are willing to expend you simply won’t bother.
It sounds simple, but a habit can only occur if you are capable of doing it, in other words, your response will depend on your ability to perform the task.
This is why it is important when setting goals to make them realistic and fair on yourself, give yourself every chance of succeeding!
Reward - The reward is delivered by your response. The reward is the end goal of every habit.
The cue is about noticing the reward.The craving is about wanting the reward.The response is about obtaining the reward.
Wee chase rewards as they serve to purposes:
1. They satisfy us
2. They teach us
If behaviour is insufficient at any of the four stages, it will not become a habit.
If you eliminate the cue, your habit will never start.
If you reduce the craving, you won’t experience enough motivation to act.
If you make the end goal too difficult, you simply won’t be able to do it.
And, if the reward fails to satisfy, you will have no reason to do it again in the future.
It sounds simple, but Wee have always found that being aware of something (in this case, the process) makes it a lot easier to stick to when the going gets tough, in other words, knowing there is a process that you must go through in order to obtain your goals makes it easier to understand the mechanics involved and will help you push through when times get hard.
Some say ignorance is bliss, but to me that’s just an easy way of getting out of something.
Someone who is truly motivated and aware will embrace the process & when times get hard, they will find a way to stack another log on the motivational fire within.
The key to adopting a new behaviour, is to keep at it.
Do not feel disheartened if you have to force yourself to put your trainers on each morning, drink that hot lemon water instead of a coffee and not to pick up your phone 17,000 times a day instead of picking up a book.
Making habits is not easy, our brains are hardwired to take shortcuts and do what comes naturally to us, so while you’re telling yourself you want to create new habits, your brain in the background is busy working out how it can revert to your old ways.
It’s important to remember why you wanted to make these changes in the first place, keep these thoughts at the forefront of your consciousness and use them as the motivation to fulfil your desire, let the motivated side of you succeed over the procrastinator, this too will take time to change, but once the habit of being motivated is formed, you will find there is no room for procrastination.
As the great Carl Yung once said:
He who looks outside, dreams;He who looks inside, awakes.
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
Find that inner strength, motivation and determination to step into 2020 with laser-like 20/20 vision to accomplish your goals, after all, you really do deserve it.
Written by Calum Napier
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of the New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits, by James Clear.