The biggest stumbling block between you and your goals is you. Well, your habits! A key step in effectively pursuing your goals this year is identifying your bad habits and finding ways to curb them. Until you do this, you will keep falling into the same pitfalls over and over again.
Does this surprise you? If it does, you haven’t been reading long enough! Getting sick of reflecting yet? I hope not. Cause, if you are, this is going to be a long year. Pick one of the goals you selected this year and list one or two bad habits which will make it more difficult (if not impossible) to achieve that goal.
One of the things I set out to do was be healthier which involved eating better. This is often derailed by my obsession with Coca Cola (are we sure they don’t still have cocaine in their recipe?) and how much I despite drinking water.
How about you? Did you promise to get better grades but you hold a PhD in procrastination? Did you promise to work out more but keep pressing snooze on your alarm? Did you promise to set better boundaries with friends/loved ones/colleagues but find yourself saying ‘yes’ to every, single request? Did you promise to increase communication in your relationship but you’re still passive aggressive? What’s your poison? What is it you would be better or not doing but you can’t seem to stop? Write it down!
Identify Your Triggers
I cannot stress the importance of this. A big part of this year is being self-aware. It is the only way you will be able to stop your plans from derailing. This is one of the times it becomes most important. If certain people, situations or emotions trigger your bad habit, you need to be aware of this so you can avoid (or minimize if complete avoidance is impossible) your exposure to these triggers. Otherwise, you will be like a hamster on a wheel. So, if you notice you are more likely to smoke or drink too much when you go out with a certain group of friends - you might need to make a decision about how often you hang out with them. If you notice, you are more likely to drink a can (or two) of a soft drink if you drink as you eat - you might want to work on drinking after your meal. If you notice you keep your cell phone (because who even uses alarm clocks any more) on your bed, within easy snoozing reach - maybe you should put it where you have to get out of bed to turn it off. It is easy to identify the little actions that may result in change once you look for patterns.
The Best Way to Change
There are two main ways a person can go about making change in their lives. The first is gradually and the second is an immediate cut. This is a decision anyone who has ever gone to the beach / pool has had to make. Do you jump in? Or, do you submerge your body joint by joint - toe, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, neck? Do you peel off the bandaid slowly or do you rip it off? The truth of the matter is that the best course of action changes from habit to habit as well as personality type. For example, if you hate waking up early in the morning - it might work better if you keep setting your alarm clock ten minutes back over the course of a few weeks until your body adjusts. However, smoking might be something better cut off quickly - or maybe your toxic ex? Both of those things can worm their way back into addiction before you realize what is happening. This is a decision that can only be made after introspection or trial and error. I chose to cut down on my Coca Cola drinking but realized that (there is really cocaine in there) it wasn’t working. So, I am trying cold turkey (pray for me). See what works best for you!
Can You Replace It With Something Better?
Is it possible substitute your habit with something that isn’t bad for you? For example, I have found that I enjoy sparkling water with a lemon squeezed into it. I can just about almost have myself believe I am having a soda. If you adore ice-cream maybe you can replace it with homemade sorbets. I scroll through Instagram a lot but I have recently realized I am just as entertained playing Duolingo and with Duolingo, I am slowly learning a new language.
Once you are able to identify what you like the most about your bad habit, think of an alternative.
Find An Accountability Partner
Human beings are such social creatures that sometimes it helps to have someone along on your journey. It might be useful to hook up with someone trying to rid themselves of their own bad habits to help hold you accountable. However, and for the love of all good and pure remember this, DO NOT PICK SOMEONE WITH THE SAME BAD HABIT. You might derail each other instead of offering support. Once you find your partner, it is important to be honest with them as well yourself. If you hide your shortcomings, this will all be a waste of time.
Allow For Slips
We are humans. Not Androids. And, because of that - we will make mistakes. Be kind to yourself and use each failed attempt as a learning experience. Bad habits are not formed overnight. They are not formed in a week. They are usually as a result of years and years of deeply ingrained actions. So, don’t expect them to change over night. Remember, the only way to truly fail is to stop putting on foot in front of the other. As long as you are trying, you are already doing more than most!
Spend some time getting on top of your bad habits - it might be the single most important thing you do in achieving those dreams.