Habits and Doubt, or All I Want for New Year’s is More Willpower

This month I’m working on once again giving up my cheese habit.

Laugh all you want but my relationship with cheese is complicated by it being one of the only things that I adore eating that also reliably makes me feel terrible. Talk about a love-hate relationship! I can dive into a cheese plate and a few glasses of wine and next thing you know, I’m snoring and drooling on my boyfriend’s shoulder at 9:00 pm trying to stay away to watch The Magicians again.

What is it about this habit that I can’t seem to break, even when I know it’s terrible for me?

THEY ALWAYS SAY TIME CHANGES THINGS, BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO CHANGE THEM YOURSELF.
― Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

It’s that time of year again!

When many people are making promises to themselves about old habits they are going to change in the coming New Year. If you’re among this group you can count yourself in good company. All sorts of people from bakers to CEOs, entrepreneurs to high schoolers, promise to make a change beginning on January 1st. With all these dedicated people setting out to create change, you’d think we’d see a drop in candy sales, or a rise in public parks, but year after year the effort to change lasts about as long as the first few weeks, and then erodes back into the old habit until next January rolls around.

Why do we find it so hard to change our habits?

Nurture your new habits while you are living into them.

REASON ONE: We forget how long it took us to build the old habit.

“Old habits die hard”, that old saw has been dragged out every year as resolutions to change drop like flies around the beginning of February. We tend to forget that the old habit we are working on, like smoking or eating smarter or working out or being more patient or more organised, is a habit that we built over years, decades even. When we lose sight of how long it took us to create the habit in the first place, we lose perspective on how fast a new habit can be installed in it’s place.

REASON TWO: We doubt ourselves.

Doubting our own ability is a biggie. Most of the time, new habits die young because somewhere in us, there’s a subtle message of doubt being echoed. Many times doubt comes creeping in because we have formed an idea about the person we think, (or fear) we are. It’s really easy to get caught up in the roles we play in life and forget that they are only ideas about ourselves. They are just as made up as the TV show I am currently hooked on, or the fictional story you read last week. Doubt is there because you think something or other about yourself, it might be true, it might be false, but it’s only an idea.

REASON THREE: We fail to create a support system.

Oh America! We are a nation led to believe that we can and should do everything on our own. I’m here to let you know that in terms of changing old habits, this can be your downfall! Creating a support network is one the most useful things you can do to help you live into the change you want for yourself. Here’s the thing- just because you create a support system, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Your gang-o-pals will help see you through but you’re still gonna have to take it on for yourself.

REASON FOUR: We don’t celebrate the small stuff.

Last, but very definitely not least, is celebrating. We tend to think that we should not celebrate the wins along the way because it will undermine our momentum. Wrong-O! Pull out those noise-makers and gold stars. get some confetti and toss some dance-around-the-house music on and let yourself acknowledge each step towards your goal. Remember back when you were in grade school and you got a star each week for attendance? How good did that feel? Acknowledging your progress is actually a huge key to your success in this.

So you now have the four key reasons we often find change difficult to create…

person on rock at sunset

Make the choice each day to live into your new habits.

Here’s my cheat-sheet of the top four solutions that will help you stay on track.

SOLUTION ONE: Create a reminder for yourself of how long that old habit has been there and take just 1 minute a day to acknowledging how long the old habit has been hanging around helps us see our current position from a new perspective.

SOLUTION TWO: Take a few minutes each week to write out the 3 action steps you will take this week to move you closer to your goal. It’s okay if they stay the same for many weeks, the point is to focus your attention on action, not on what you think about yourself. Hint: Think of action steps as physical actions you will take. (For example this week I’m going to 1. Not purchase any cheese. 2. Say no when offered even the most delicious of cheeses. 3. Put a gold star on my calendar each day that I do not eat cheese).

SOLUTION THREE: Rope a few key friends and family members into what you plan to do. Ask them to be accountability buddies for you and that includes helping you celebrate the small victories you see along the way to achieving you ultimate goal. For other ways to create new habits, click here.

SOLUTION FOUR: Just 2 minutes of celebration and acknowledgement a day will help keep you on track for success. Whether this is telling a friend or dancing round your living room waving your arms, acknowledging what you accomplished today will help keep you moving towards your goal. The key to this is that you need to do it out loud. No kidding! Say it, shout it, sing it, discuss it over coffee or dinner, but share the news with someone else and with yourself by speaking it right out loud!

One last thing to keep in mind as you are working on creating the change you want to live into. It takes human beings about 3 weeks of daily practice to build a new habit. Once you build it, yah gotta keep feeding it- so plan on another 90 days to grow it up into a full-blown, grown-ass habit you can rely on. Then stick to it for another 90 days and Viola! You’ll have set yourself up for success.

And hey… if you find yourself in need of someone to help you with all this, hit me up with an email and let me help. I coach people everyday to create the changes they want for themselves.

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