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Every year, millions of people make New Year’s Resolutions, but less than 5% actually follow-through with them. Most of us start the new year with a new goal, a new habit we want to implement, a new version of ourselves that we want to create, but most of us don’t make it past January.
Why are we so bad at implementing and sustaining new habits?
The most important thing you will ever learn is how to control your habits. The quality of life that you lead will be determined almost completely by your habits. You develop habits whether or not you are aware of them. So you have a choice here. You can either consciously control your habits, or you can allow your habits to control you.
And while I am all about New Year’s Resolutions, goal-setting and habit formation should happen every day of the year. In this article are some tips to creating and sustaining habits this coming January or any other time of the year.
1. Accept that it will be painful in the beginning.
So I decided a couple of months ago that I would start waking up at 4AM. The first morning that the alarm went off, I was beyond exhausted, but I jumped out of bed anyway, and I went through my carefully designed morning routine. The next morning wasn’t much easier. For the first few weeks, I was falling asleep later in the day, I was exhausted in the mornings, but I refused to quit. I was convicted in my desire to become an early morning person, and I knew that if I stuck with the habit, I would eventually get used to it.
And now, I am a regular 4AM riser. I have more energy before the sun comes up than most people have throughout their entire day. I stuck with my habit, and my body eventually got used to it.
The reason most people quit on their new habits is because the beginning is painful. But this is when you get to flex your discipline muscle. You wanted to start this new habit for a reason, so don’t lose sight of that. And that brings me to the next tip…
2. Define a purpose for your new habit.
Wanna start going to the gym? Want to eat healthier? Want to get up earlier in the morning?
Make sure you have a clear and definite purpose behind the new habit you want to implement. If you are not clear on exactly how this new habit is going to improve your quality of life, then you will probably not succeed in following through with it.
I wanted to start waking up at 4AM each morning because I wanted to get my workout in, some journaling, a healthy breakfast, and a little reading each morning before I sat down at my computer for a long day of grinding away at my business. I wanted to set myself up to be in my best mindset at the beginning of the day, and even complete some tasks in the early hours, so I could wrap up my workday in the afternoon! Even though the first few weeks were exhausting as I adjusted to my new sleep schedule, it was so amazing to have most of the afternoon and the entire evening to myself, so I kept rising out of bed at 4AM.
3. Do one habit at a time.
Some habits go hand-in-hand. For example, when I started waking up early, I also implemented the habit of exercising daily because I would exercise in the mornings.
However, I would caution anyone against starting more than one new habit at once. Especially if habit formation isn’t something you do on a regular basis. It takes a lot of mental energy to adjust to a new habit, so one at a time will be enough.
If you implement and sustain your habits one at a time, you end up making better progress overall than if you had implemented them all at the same time.
4. Be nice to yourself. Mistakes are part of the process.
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to be kind and forgiving of yourself as you try and add a new habit into your life. If you mess up and fall off the wagon once or twice, just forgive yourself and keep moving forward. There is no point in beating yourself up over it. You are a human and humans make mistakes. Don’t let a couple of slip-ups stand between you and the person you could become.
Remember that habit formation is a skill that is developed over time. That is why you can’t just do this one day out of the year, you must practice implementing new habits no matter what time of year it is. And it will be worth it in the end, because if you can figure out how to control your habits, you will control your quality of life.