Just about everyone wants to cultivate better habits. The problem is, very few of us want to do the work to make those habits a reality.
We hope they will magically develop, that one day we’ll just wake up early, without even considering the snooze button and head straight to the gym.
Then we’ll have a healthy breakfast and sit right down with that creative project we’ve been putting off for months. At some point, our desire to smoke or lie or complain will mysteriously disappear too.
The reality? This has never happened to anyone, and it’s never going to happen.
So, how do you transform vague hopes into reality?
To start, first, we need to develop better habits, better accountability, and a clearer vision for my day-to-day life.
Here are the steps we all should be taking as we are staring down the barrel of a new year, and if we aren’t going to do it now, when will we?
1. Think Small—Really Small.
The writer James Clear talks a lot about the idea of “atomic habits”.
Atomic habit is a small habit that makes an enormous difference in your life.
He talks about how the British cycling team was completely turned around by focusing on 1 per cent improvements in every area.
That sounds small, but it accumulates and adds up in a big way.
Don’t promise yourself you’re going to read more; instead, commit to reading one page per day.
Thinking big is great, but thinking small is easier and easier is what we’re after when it comes to getting started.
Because once you get started, you can build.
Similar article: Why 80% of New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How to Make Yours Work.
2. Create a Physical Reminder.
A physical totem can make the habit or standard you’re trying to hold yourself to into something more than an idea, and that helps—a lot.
The author and minister Will Bowen have a simple system that helps people quit complaining.
He provides each member of his congregation with a purple bracelet, and each time they complain, they switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other.
This method is simple and straightforward and makes it easy to hold yourself accountable.
Here’s are tips on how to be more organized.
3. Lay Out Your Supplies.
When I get to my desk in the morning, the three journals I write in are sitting right there.
If I want to skip the habit, I have to pick them up and move them aside.
So most mornings I don’t move them, and I write in them.
You can use the same strategy if, for example, you want to start running in the morning.
Place your shoes, shorts, and jacket next to your bed or in the doorway of your bedroom so you can put them on immediately.
You’ll be less likely to take the easy way out if it’s embarrassingly simple to do the thing you want to do.
4. Piggyback New Habits on Old Habits.
In 2018, you kept telling yourself you wanted to contribute more to the community or volunteering, and normally we say “I’m going to start doing that.”
I listened to an interview with David Sedaris, who talked about how he likes to go on long walks and pick up trash near his home.
I go for a walk nearly every morning. It’s an ingrained habit that’s part of my routine.
This was easy because I had already done the heavy lifting of creating the first habit.
Now it’s harder not to pick up trash, like when I don’t have a bag.
Will this little activity save the world? Of course not. But it helps. And I can build on it.
5. Surround Yourself With Good People.
“Tell me who you spend time with and I will tell you who you are” was Goethe’s line.
Jim Rohn came up with the phrase that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Hence, surround yourself with people that builds you rather than bring you down.
6. Focus on Yourself
If your morning is ruined because you woke up to a bad news of oil price hike on Facebook, and that is going to effect the whole day.
So don’t check social media much, and don’t stress about everything going on in the world.
Not because you are apathetic, but because there are all sorts of changes you want to make personally.
“If you wish to improve,” Epictetus said, “be content to be seen as ignorant or clueless about some things.”
7. Make It About Your Identity.
We should keep our identities small, and generally, I think identity politics are toxic.
It’s a huge advantage, however, to cultivate certain habits or commitments that are foundational to your identity.
You can see why being vegan becomes part of people’s identity too.
If it was just about choosing not to eat any animal products, the diet would be extremely difficult to adhere to.
But because it is a lifestyle and an ideology, vegans are willing to push through all that.
They don’t see it as a choice, but rather as the right thing to do.
8. Keep It Simple.
Most people are way too obsessed with productivity and optimization.
They want to know all the tools a successful writer or an artist uses because they think this is what makes these individuals so great.
In reality, they are great because they love what they do and they have something they’re trying to say.
Keep the to-do lists are short and goals reachable, and you don’t have to be constantly busy.
Look at the little things that make a big difference—not only is this more manageable, but the results will also create momentum.
No one is saying you have to magically transform yourself in 2019, but if you’re not making progress toward the person you want to be, what are you doing? And, more important, when are you planning to do it
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside.
And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer…
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