While we love the optimism of New Year’s Resolutions, unfortunately, the enthusiasm and hope often fades within weeks, and our efforts at self-improvement come to a whimpering end.
New Year’s Resolutions usually fail because of a combination of some of these reasons:
- We try to do too many resolutions at once, and that spreads our focus and energies too thin. It’s much less effective to do many habits at once (read more).
- We only have a certain amount of enthusiasm and motivation, and it runs out because we try to do too much, too soon. We spend all that energy in the beginning and then run out of steam.
- We try to do really tough habits right away, which means it’s difficult and we become overwhelmed or intimidated by the difficulty and quit.
- We try to be “disciplined” and do very unpleasant habits, but our nature won’t allow that to last for long. If we really don’t want to do something, we won’t be able to force ourselves to do it for long.
- Life gets in the way. Things come up unexpectedly that get in the way of us sticking with a habit.
- Resolutions are often vague — I’m going to exercise! — but don’t contain a concrete action plan and don’t use proven habit techniques. That’s a recipe for failure.
There are other reasons, but the ones above are easily sufficient to stop resolutions from succeeding.
The 6 Changes Method
So what are we to do?
- We only focus on one habit change at a time, so our focus and energies aren’t spread thinly.
- We implement the habit changes gradually, so we don’t run out of steam.
- We start out really, really easily, so it isn’t intimidating.
- We focus on enjoyable activities, so we don’t need “discipline”.
- We have two months to do the habit change, so if something comes up, it’s but a small bump in the road. And because we’re publicly committed, we’re going to get back on track.
- We have a very specific plan with actions built in, using proven habit change techniques.
If you stick with the method, you’ll do much better than you’ve done in the past with New Year’s Resolutions. You’ll focus on creating long-lasting habits rather than trying to reach a short-term goal that fails. You’ll maintain your enthusiasm for longer and not become overwhelmed by the difficulty of change. You’ll have habits that will change your life, and that’s no small feat.
So how does the 6 Changes method work? It’s simple:
- Choose 6 habits for the new year.
- Pick 1 of the 6 habits to start with.
- Commit as publicly as possible to creating this new habit in 2 months.
- Break the habit into 8 baby steps, starting with a ridiculously easy step. Example: if you want to floss, the first step is just to get out a piece of floss at the same time each night.
- Choose a trigger for your habit – something already in your routine that will immediately precede the habit. Examples: eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, showering, waking up, arriving at the office, leaving the office, getting home in the evening.
- Do the 1st, really easy baby step for one week, right after the trigger. Post your progress publicly. (Read more.)
- Each week, move on to a slightly harder step. You’ll want to progress faster, but don’t. You’re building a new habit. Repeat this until you’ve done 8 weeks.
By Leo Babauta