It’s that time of year, again. We’re all desperate for change. Everyone and their dog practically reeks of metamorphosis. The time has come for fresh starts. New beginnings. Making change.
You may not realize it, but your resolutions for the new year are a lot more drastic than you think. Take it from a self improvement fanatic like me: Adopting a new habit is challenging. And assuming you want your resolutions to last, you’ll cope with the challenge for a while.
Personally, I don’t wait for the end of the year to make a change. I do it all year round, so I’ve got experience in the habit-keeping department. In March of 2019, I dropped out of college, and in May the same year I got my first job and moved to Germany, a land where I knew no one. Then on December 31st, 2019, I quit that job to spend more time with my family. On the outside, it looks like I sped through my 20’s straight to my 30’s in a few months. On the inside, it feels much more drastic than that, I assure you. So I know a thing or two about change.
Here are some tips you can keep in mind when making a habit stick.
Make it personal.
There’s no point in making a commitment just because someone else is. You need to have a highly personal reason to move your ass and turn a new leaf. Otherwise, nothing will happen and your discipline will constantly be jeopardized.
Why do you want to change, and how? Figure this out before you commit to anything, your willpower will thank you later.
Double the duration.
Let’s say your new resolution is to write every day for six months. If that’s the case, imagine writing every day for a year. Does it still sound feasible in your mind? If so, great. If not, change the resolution.
Those who are less experienced with taking things to the extreme may not realize that motivation has no gradual drop. The reality is one second you’re going strong and 15 minutes later you can’t even physically lift your left index finger. It happens. The graph of motivation over time has no gentle dips, it just crashes infinitely at a certain point without warning.
So do yourself a favor: Factor in the difficulty of staying motivated by doubling the commitment duration in your head, just to see if half of that would be feasible.
Make it a daily habit.
Find a way to make your commitment a daily task. This way, you build up momentum to keep it going through the harder periods to come.
Besides, some fancy research I conducted proved that daily routines are both harder to change and easier to implement than regular habits in longer time frames. What did I do to discover this? I started a daily podcast.
Daily habits are easier to make and harder to break.
In the beginning, making it a daily thing was easy. I just thought of it like another simple task I had to do every day. Eventually, it became such a normal part of my daily routine that even when I forgot, I remembered that I forgot. In the past six months, I’ve probably missed four or five days of daily podcast episodes — pretty impressive considering all the drastic changes those months have seen.
It’s a hard habit to break now because it’s been part of my day for so long. That all came from making it a daily thing, right from the start.
I’m a man of extremes. In my mind, the middle doesn’t exist. So I strongly believe that if you’re committing to something, you should jump right in.
Measure the right things.
Keeping track of your progress is important, but how you do it can make the difference between a habit that sticks and a habit that stinks. Completion is too easy, so you’ve got to use metrics tailored to your specific habit.
I suggest rating the act of doing your commitment, every time you do it. Record your subjective rating of enjoyment, quality, ease of completion, and other variables that monitor the health of the habit as well as yours.
I added this step at the end because it’s kind of an advanced technique. After all, most people struggle to even stick to the habit after a few weeks, let alone track their progress. But you’re better than most people, aren’t you?
Expect little, work a lot.
Listen, building a habit (especially a good one) is hard. You’re not going to like it all the time. In fact, you’re not going to like it most of the time. But that’s the game: Sticking with it despite the dips and peaks.
Even I, with all my self improvement tips and productivity hacks, occasionally turn a disdainful eye to my daily commitments. For instance, I’d say that 30% of my podcast episodes are recorded when I’m physically so tired that I shouldn’t even be alive. Of course I don’t want to record the damn episode in such times, but I do it, anyway. Consequently, I’ve actually fallen asleep for a few seconds on air before. (More than once, actually.)
Believe me, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. That’s not what you signed up for.
You signed up for change. And change, I’m sorry to report, is often uncomfortable. But the results speak for themselves.
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