A week from now, at the beginning of 2020, I will be doing my annual planning ritual.
l’ll be looking at large projects, the work and personal habits that I want to establish, and creating space in my calendar to make them happen.
Roland and I will be making vision boards at home and also with our 365 community members. We will be reaching inside to create the year ahead. The end of the year and the beginning of the next one is a natural time when we look back and look forward. And we feel called towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.
In January each year we meet long term and new readers and students who come to us to get support with their resolutions. The long term students come because they know support makes change faster and easier, and the newly aware students look for the best ways to achieve their goals. They share:
“I will finally get in shape.”
“I will start yoga for my stress.”
“I will meditate daily.”
We are glad to be in a position to support readers and students, because the resolutions statistics can make the most optimistic person seriously depressed.
Resolutions vs Habits
Take one study of New Year’s resolutions, in which 77 percent of people were able to keep a resolution for a week, but only 19% for 2 years.
You do the math, because changing a habit and making it stick takes a while. And some habits take even longer to make a noticeable difference. The main reasons most people in the study dropped their resolutions: stress and negative emotions.
Yet, each year, we keep resolving and promising things will be different and we will be different. Something inside of us is calling us from the future asking for us to express our health, creativity, and potential as partners, parents, and humans more fully. Something is pointing to a point of suffering in our lives, saying, this stress, this weight, this pain, this habit, can’t go on.
So we say yes and we jump in, rarely understanding the gravity of what it takes to make a habit stick, stay connected to the deep “why” of change, and how much support, resources and resolve it would actually take.
We chronically underestimate the effort and overestimate the result we will get – and of course, with all that at play, it’s not hard to feel disappointed, frustrated and throw in the towel.
We coach people 1-1 and in groups about these very challenges all the time, yet the end of one year and beginning of the next is when these patterns really start to emerge and ask for attention. We want to share with you the same mindset changing ideas we share with our clients, so you too can have an opportunity to make 2020 a year of meaningful self-care and enjoy your highest health.
Make your change as personal as you can
Often, we get resolution contagion. A colleague is doing the Whole 30. Someone is asking you to join a bootcamp with them. Your partner is going gluten-free, so of course, you should do the same.
However, in order for change to stick and last, you need the habits and daily actions that are personally important and meaningful to you. Not just at the surface level, but at the level of what you believe, how you want to live your life, and what kind of person you would like to be for yourself, those around you and the world you have influence over.
A bootcamp might be fun, but does nothing for how curious you are about human movement and the exploration of the connection between movement and emotion. So it will just scratch the surface, and soon you will get bored. Or, you really don’t believe that gluten-free should be even a thing. But you deeply want to be more connected to the land and start gardening, composting and supporting your local farmers.
In one case, you would join a bootcamp, in the other probably a movement studio where you can learn about how the body works and you can explore many mind-body movement styles.
In one case, you’d be eating gluten-free pasta once a week, in the other you’d be working in a community garden, sharing social time with neighbors and friends, and learning from a local farmer how to make your own cheese.
These are just two examples, but think about this: what’s your personal why? How will this affect you mentally, emotionally, physically? What would this habit need to be, so that once you have established it, you can’t imagine life without it.
Create time, space, and rhythm for the change you desire
Has this happened to you? You pick up a new resolution and just add it to your calendar. Which just adds more to do…hm, no wonder that study showed 81% of people don’t make it long term on their resolutions.
In order for anything new to take root in your life, you need to give it time, space and establish a rhythm, so that it can soon start to feel natural.
I was recently working with a client who has chronic illness and limited energy to meet the demands of her housework.
We found that dishes can build up for days, and then it takes 2 or more hours to clean up the kitchen and dishwasher. We also noticed that the pattern was self-defeating – not only did she not have the energy to do all this work, but when it was finally inevitable, she exhausted herself even more trying to complete the task.
So we looked at the three variables – time, space and rhythm.
Time meant that she was supposed to know how long it takes and factor that in.
Space meant some buffer before and after the task.
Rhythm meant finding the best times of the day when she had the most energy to do a little bit at a time, so mountains of work did not pile up.
You can do the same with any new habit you are trying to establish.
Doing exercise in the morning, for example. How long will it take? Can you build a few minutes for transitioning to and from the activity, and how often would you like to do it for optimal rhythm?
Rhythmicity is built within our biology – we inhale and exhale, our hearts speed up and slow down, we eat and then digest, we rise and then go to bed…if you can find the best time of day, week and month to plan for your new activity and synch it with natural rhythms, it will pay off.
Power yourself with positive emotion
Define aspects of the change that are easy to observe.
I personally think the notion of motivation is overrated. It’s much better to find an emotional connection to the habit you want to build and ride the wave of positive emotion. Using fear-mongering, pain-avoidance, and scare tactics won’t get you anywhere.
Fear puts the whole system in a defensive state – hardly a favorable place from which to learn.
With clients, we explore how would they like to feel when they have established a new habit.
“I want to feel confident in my body.”
“I would like to be relaxed at night.”
“I would like to be able to eat without worry about calories. I want to be at peace with calories.”
Whatever the emotion is, get a hold of it. It could be a whole state made up of several emotions. Then break it down into bite sized measurable signs that you have gotten there:
“I will know I am confident in my body when I can go to the gym by myself. Also because I will be doing my own yard work and walk the two dogs at once.”
“I will know I am relaxed, because I can fall asleep faster. I also won’t need wine to wind down from the day. And I will be patient with my daughter’s homework.”
“I will know I am at a point of peace with calories when I can go out to any restaurant and not look at the menu beforehand. I will also know, because I will eat without checking labels. And I can finally buy full fat milk again.”
Do you see the difference?
One is more general and the other a lot more specific, so you can measure how you are moving forward towards sticking to the habits that will get you to these specific outcomes.
It’s easy to say: “Oh, i just need to buy less packaged food, and little by little read fewer labels” instead of “I will worry less about calories”, which is more broad and nebulous.
So whatever your resolution could be this year, write it down and then use the three principles discussed to help it stick.
Here are the three principles again
- Make it personally meaningful.
- Create time, space and rhythm.
- Find the positive emotion and define the specific ways you will act when you feel that way.
This simple process has helped hundreds of trusted clients find a new and effective way to learn and care for themselves.
And, using these principles, you can learn any habit – and eat, move and live better sooner than you thought and make it stick forever.
As you know, as coaches, it’s our work to make sure that actually happens, so we would love it if you join us for a special January program.
We will take 30 days to introduce 12 powerful habits that will change your eating style and make a real food diet easy to follow.
We’ll do it in a way that helps you learn, implement and then use the rest of the year to solidify these 12 habits, so you can feel your best!
If you’re ready, jump in!
Our program requires no supplements or gimmicks, so there are no hidden costs, just real life, proven, client tested work, that will pay off one habit at a time for the rest of your life.
I hope to see you in The Great January Reset. If you have any questions, just ask!