2015 is here and a new year has arrived. A new year seems to symbolize many things to different people. Sometimes a new beginning for a person, the beginning of a new habit, or the letting go of an unwanted problem in one’s life. When I worked in a gym I recall the beginning of the year as being the “high season” for all of the people with new year’s resolutions who ran to sign up for new weight loss and health programs in the first few weeks of the year with most of them never to be seen again after January. So why does this happen? Why is it that people are so determined and willing to change one day and quit on their goals so quickly? I will discuss this topic and what you can do to make the changes you want to see in your life.
To understand any new year’s resolution or goal let’s take a look at what these are. A goal is something you want to achieve, accomplish, or add into your life. New year’s resolutions tend to be about habits which are arguably the most difficult of anything to change in your life.
What is it that makes a habit more difficult to accomplish than something larger and more ambitious? Habits tend to be things that seem small. They are the little things a person does every day, or most days, and does not think about very much. Habits are by their nature unconscious activities. They are automatic. It is something a person has done thousands of times before and they can do it without any conscious attention. This is true of smoking, watching TV, eating terrible food, driving etc.
To achieve a goal that is ambitious such as getting a better job, launching a business, or improving your education requires a large amount of your conscious attention, your energy, and effort. These are things that would be impossible to do without paying close attention to what you are doing. Whereas something that is automatic requires none of your attention or focus. This is the difference between a goal of ambition and a goal of habit. For this reason an excellent practice in changing a habit is to make it conscious.
Put your full attention on the way you carry out your habit, or the thoughts and activities you use to ignore doing the right thing when you try to talk yourself out of achieving your goals. When you quit your workout routine to watch TV count the hours you are doing this. Take full attention of what you watch and how you feel during the activity. This will show you both sides of your habit. On the one hand maybe you don’t like going to the gym as in this example, on the other hand you will have a full understanding of it’s opposite: a night of television. This gives you the two pieces of information you need to be able to decide to continue with your goal. The ideal in your mind and the present situation. Even if you only go workout two or three times a week there is still plenty of time for TV.
When people set out to change a habit they will always begin by imagining the end goal. “Wouldn’t life be better if I had X or did not have Y in my life”. This is necessary in order to know what you want but if you do not also focus on the steps that are necessary to get to the end goal you will not get there. This is what I call “the gap”. The gap is the difference between where you are currently and your end goal. What tends to stop people from acheiving habit change is this gap.
To cross this gap you must become familiar with the steps in between where you are now and where you want to be. What is most common in people who fail in resolutions is that people begin the process and do not know what sacrifices or challenges they will face to reach their end goal. The first time they experience the challenge they doubt whether or not it is worth it to continue. The common belief is that how hard something is at the very beginning is how hard it will be always. This is the exact opposite of the truth.
The first time you rode a bike or drove a car you needed a lot of focus to get it done. Nowadays people drive, eat, talk on the phone, and surf facebook, all simultaneously. The more you repeat a habit the easier it gets. If you want to improve some habit in your life don’t get discouraged, take breaks when needed, be forgiving with yourself, and be persistent. It is critical that you truly put your attention on the habits you want to change. Do this repetitively because it is the only way to make a subconscious behavior a conscious behavior.
What difference will it make if you achieve your goals or not? This is a question many face when things get tough. To be straightforward the difference will be where you are now compared with where you are would be if you don’t quit. Whether this is worth it or not is up to you. Everyone has tough times the changes you make for yourself are yours, no one else can claim them. This is the real value of sticking to your resolutions.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. When you set out to accomplish something and do, this will change all of the other aspects of your life. You become more capable of change in other areas. You become more in control of your life. You become stronger and more self-confident. You begin to be less dominated by our society which encourages you to be dependent on external needs and to be powerless in yourself.
This is not a small gain in your life for it can lead to huge ones. Developing habits that you choose develops your self-control which empowers you and improves you in every way. Furthermore you will develop self-trust which empowers you to know true from false and stick to it even when others demand you believe in what is false.
Choosing your habits will change you. It has long-term and short-term benefits to everyday of the rest of your life (and probably future lives). A success in your life brought about through your own determination will begin to free you from the powerlessness bred into our culture. Put your attention into your habits or resolutions and see how not only your life changes but your conscience as well.