Making Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
It’s so easy to sit down at the beginning of the new year feeling super inspired and motivated to make healthy changes in our lives, but actually following through and making the healthy behaviours stick long-term is another story. I have always practiced putting resolutions and goals in place at the beginning of a new year, however up until I quit drinking, I would rarely make any long-term changes in these areas.
The way we live our lives including our habits and behaviours is something we are mostly able to create for ourselves. Most of the time (keeping the more serious mental health conditions and addictions aside) if we really want these changes and take the required actions, we absolutely can achieve our goals.
At the beginning of 2019 I wanted to start the day off every day by drinking half a litre of hot water with lemon. I have read about the health benefits of this and wanted to incorporate this into my daily routine. At first it was a tedious and annoying exercise. This morning as I drank my lemon water I realised that I haven't skipped a day of doing this for over two years. Even when I went away at Christmas time I took my straw and large 500 ml mug in my suitcase. It is just part of my lifestyle now. It is a habit that will stick for life.
What I believe to be true through the research I have conducted and my own lived experience is that the secret lies in:
Creating new habits based on our identities
Having a firm belief in ourselves that we can achieve our goals
Starting with 1-2 habits or goals at a time (don’t try and overhaul your entire life all at once)
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, states that the key to building lifelong behaviour change is to create a new identity first. He says that our current behaviours are simply a reflection of our identity. Back that up with a belief that we will achieve our goals (and of course the hard yakka of doing the new healthy things), and eventually over time our healthy habits become our new permanent way of living; Our everyday lifestyle.
I have broken down the process for making your new habits stick into six steps to help you plan and navigate your way to success. Don’t get me wrong, your willingness to show up every day for yourself and repeat the habits over and over is the glue that binds it all together. But the daily work it takes is so worth the results you will create for yourself.
Thrivalist’s Six Steps to Make New Habit’s Stick
Step 1 - Create a new Identity for yourself
Set aside 20 minutes to sit in a quiet space where you won't be interrupted. You may like to light a candle, close down your eyes and practice some breathwork or meditation. When you feel ready, start to think about the current identity you have of yourself. You might like to describe how you look, dress, behave, smell, your energy and aura, your spark or lack thereof. How you live your life, work, parent your children, love your partner and the people you surround yourself with.
When you feel like you have really nailed your current identity, start back at the beginning of this practice and instead of thinking about and bringing to life your current identity, start to think about the ideal identity you have of yourself. Don’t let anything hold you back from really honing in to the little details you want for yourself. What are the characteristics and behaviours that the new version of you has? How does she behave, live, love and feel? You may even choose to illustrate this identity you have of yourself right now or find some images online to create a new identity vision board.
Step 2 - Know your strengths
Understanding the things we are already really good at in life (which we normally also enjoy doing as a result), versus the things we need extra help with is such a powerful ‘leg up’ in regards to succeeding with our goals. When we know our strengths, we can use them to our advantage to propel us forward. For example, if you already know you are good at and enjoy getting up early in the morning and feel switched on straight away, use this strength to be productive at this time. If you are a good runner but have been dragging yourself to a HIIT class that you’re not enjoying, try to incorporate running back into your exercise regime. When we know our strengths and do more of the things we love in life regularly, we feel more confident, energised and authentic, helping us to maintain our behaviour changes long term.
Step 3 - Write your plan for success
It is true that we can dream up and try to manifest whatever it is we want in life, but without a practical plan in place, it is very hard to create the change you want. Take some time to list out the characteristics of the new version of you, and then decide on the habits you will start to form in order to support these characteristics. An example of this is as follows:
New identity: A happy, healthy non-drinker
Step 4 - Embody the energy of this version of yourself
Now that you have created a new identity for yourself, it is time to feel into the energy of this version of yourself. Firstly, it's so powerful to embody the energy of the person you are becoming. This can be a little tricky at first, but over time you will get the hang of it. (This exercise is so powerful for any form of manifestation). Allowing yourself to feel like the new version of yourself feels, means that you're more inclined to act out the behaviours of this new you. You’re also more magnetic to attract the things that you desire in life. All you need to do is think about your new identity, allow the image of her to swirl around in your mind, as you feel how she feels as a result of the life she has created for herself.
Step 5 - Prove to yourself that you have got what it takes
By proving to yourself that you have got what it takes to become this new version of yourself and to make long-term behaviour changes, you have to start implementing the new habits you have assigned to yourself and then track and monitor your success. Research shows that tracking success provides us with even more motivation, propelling us further along on our journey as we can actually see the results taking place. For example, tracking your sober days, weeks and months plus the amount of money you are saving by not drinking is an extremely motivating way to keep you moving forward towards your long-term goal.
Step 6 - Celebrate and reward yourself
The final step is always honour, celebrate and reward your achievements, every single day. This can be done in small yet powerful ways such as a nightly meditation or journaling practice when you can ask yourself ‘What have I done today that I am proud of?’. By acknowledging even the smaller wins, you are proving to yourself that you are moving forward in action. Then of course by rewarding yourself even more for the bigger wins, such as a day spa experience for reaching a sober milestone, you are cementing your success permanently in your subconscious. You can do these hard things in life, and you will reap the rewards as a result.
I invite you to take a moment now to think of one habit or behaviour change you would like to implement or remove from your life, and begin the process outlined above. As mentioned previously, it’s important to show up for yourself every single day, to continue the steps over and over to rewire your neural pathways permanently. You have got this!!