March is a frustrating month for many. In January, many of us write our New Year’s Resolutions. I love new beginnings. With a blank slate, I had 365 day ahead of me. It felt like I could press the reset button in my life, discard my old habits, and replace them with better ones. In my crisp new planner, I scribble out how I would like to change my life. But every year, come March, my desire to change my life fizzles out. I become frustrated with my failure to live out the resolutions I promised. But I am not alone. Gyms have reported a spike in memberships in January, but attendance dwindles by March.
On January 1st, I wrote many aspects of my life I wanted to improve apart from health and fitness. I would be more consistent in posting blogs. I would meditate. I would walk daily, not for fitness, but to clear my hyperactive mind and make sense of things. I would clear the clutter in my flat. I would jot down my daily spending. I even made an excel sheet to check off all these daily tasks. If I stuck to these habits, my life would improve tremendously. I committed to sticking to it for 99 days. A hundred days just seemed too much. But as of today, there are only a few check marks on that excel sheet.
Frustrated with myself, I decided I no longer want to write these resolutions again on January 1, 2017. I want this year to be different, and to conquer my bad habits (some of them at least). So, at the random date of March 7th, I will begin again and make the habits stick. I want to work this time. But what sets it apart from my previous attempts. This time I read on what makes habits stick. I also read Gretchin Rubin’s latest book, “Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Life” to help me understand what works for me.
So this is how I’ve made my resolutions different this time:
- Keep it short
Instead of committing to 365 days or 99 days, I will stick to it for 21 days. Three weeks is what it takes to incorporate a habit into your life. It is also more manageable and less daunting, and it doesn’t feel like forever.
- Set a schedule
Plug in your new habits into your schedule and stick to it. Yes, it is easier said than done. But sticking to a rigid schedule helps make the habit stick. Follow as schedule, until doing your new habit becomes ingrained in your daily life.
- Be as clear as possible
A friend told me on December 31, 2015 that she wants to lose weight. She was sick of how fat she was. Totally supportive of her resolution to get fit, I asked her, “What one thing will you do to make this happen?” She stared back at me with a blank look. I asked: “Will you prepare meals every day?” “Will you hit the treadmill?” “Will you start eating breakfast?” We parted without her committing to one clear action she would stick to. I can’t wait to meet up with her and see her progress on her weight loss. The clearer you are on what you are committing to, the easier it is to monitor if you are doing it.
- Nominate a friend to keep you accountable
Find a friend to be your accomplice in making this change lasting. Crucial in my success in losing weight was to have friends who encouraged me to get fit. It is good to have them support and encourage you to meet your goals. Choose a friend who can make you be accountable for your actions. We all have friends who are enablers, allowing us to goof off and not stick to what we set out to do. Don’t choose those friends to keep you on track.
- Have a checklist to monitor your daily progress.
I have a printed excel checklist I can happily mark every day. This artist was not a fan of Excel sheets, but my super organized friend Abby taught me its benefits. Tracking your progress is important. It is this very reason why gold stars worked when we were kids.
- Reward Yourself.
I read that for some people getting penalized if they don’t stick to a habit, helped them stay on track. Those who fail to stick to doing their habits daily are required to pay a fee to their friend. I prefer using a reward system instead.
The most important thing to make habits stick is knowing why you are doing it. When the why is clear, the how becomes easy. I do know I have to embrace these new habits, to move my life to where I really want to be.
I will report on 21 days how the results of this experiment. Hopefully, I would have embraced the new habits and yes, I hope to get my reward.
The more good habits you have in your life, the less time and energy you have for bad habits. So whether you are trying to get started on the fitness path for the nth time, conquer the clutter in your home, or start meditation, join me today. Let’s begin again. But this time, let’s stick to it once and for all.
Drop me a line in the comments section if you want to embark on a 21-day challenge with me, and tell me how it goes.