I always struggle with the first couple weeks of the new year.
Everyone talks about new year’s resolutions and what they hope they’ll be able to accomplish through them, but we all know most of those goals end up lost in the backs of the minds where they were conceived. After all, it’s almost as much of a tradition to fail at these resolutions as it is to start them.
But what exactly is a new year’s resolution?
Simply put, it’s a yearly attempt at establishing a good habit.
But why limit yourself to a yearly attempt? Why not drop the whole resolution game and boldly step into the realm of building good habits year-round?
You can even build on goals going from one, smaller good habit to a larger one, spanning a couple weeks or the whole year.
The bottom line is you open your mind to possibilities when you take the perceived limitations away.
But building good habits isn’t easy. There’s lots to find online about this challenge, and here are a couple reads I think are worth your time:
Taking from the good advice given in the writings above and the many lessons life has taught me so far, here are my favorite tips for building good habits:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — Know what the positives and negatives (if any) are in this new habit. If it’s obviously much more good than bad, then it’s probably time to take this good habit seriously. So focus on the positives as this will help you become more focused and determined.
Ask yourself the following: How is this habit good? Does it keep you from something bad? Does it keep you from something ugly?
I am trying to build a good habit of riding my bike more locally for errands/utility reasons instead of defaulting to the bad habit of using an automobile, so I’ll plug my idea into this strategy:
The Good — I’ll save money while exercising and doing something that needs to be done anyway. Hopefully my driving neighbors will become a little more aware of the fact that they need to share the road with cyclists since they will see me on the road more often, so this should help make our streets a little safer. And this might even encourage some of the folks in my community to get out and ride to the store as well.
The Bad — This will keep me from spending unnecessary funds on gasoline and car maintenance. And although the pollution effects are fairly small, this will reduce pollution in my area, especially if others are encouraged to bike.
The Ugly — The obvious works here, especially when you’re hoping to start a healthy habit, but I tend to think about attitude/mood with this one. Even short bike trips to the store help me feel better, and that almost always translates into a better mood. Even short rides in the car can be stressful, and that usually leads to an unpleasant attitude.
Be SMART — The good habit you’re going to build has to be Specific, Measurable, Automatic, Rewarding and Trackable.
Here’s how my idea fits into this strategy:
Specific — I need to ride my bike when I have to go anywhere locally. Notice the word “need” there. Good habits are needful things!
Measurable — I need to ride my bike when I have to go anywhere within 3 miles of my home. I’m starting off with a pretty low number to keep it realistic. I’ll raise that number as I get more consistent and comfortable with my good habit.
Automatic — I will place my bike where it is convenient to use and I see it when I exit my home so that I am constantly reminded of my good habit. It can’t be automatic unless you make it convenient and you are reminded of it when you are to choose the good habit. The best way to be reminded of something is to see it. This can be the object that is associated with the good habit such as the bicycle itself, a symbol of the object such as a bike sign, or even just a post-it note with a message to yourself such as, “Ride your bike to the store!”
Rewarding — I will see an ever-increasing number of calories burned thanks to this good habit, and my wife will be happier because I’ll be helping more with grocery shopping (happy wife = great dinner and maybe more!).
Trackable — I will use a GPS program to track the extra miles and calories burned. You get to see where you’ve been and where you’re going. It’s great to see progress, and one of the best ways to do this is with numbers. Most people want to be able to say at least to themselves, “I rode 4,000 miles last year,” or, “I burned 100,000 calories exercising last year.” And once you’ve seen that number, now you have the challenge of making that number even higher this time around!
CYA — I have no idea why my wife frowns when I say this. Maybe she has no idea it means:
Convenience — You have to make whatever it is you’re trying to do as convenient as possible. Trying to build a good habit of going to the gym? Keep a change of clothes in your vehicle (please tell me you’re riding your bike to the gym!). Trying to eat healthier? Keep the fridge full of fruit and veggies. Trying to have a better attitude? Hang out more with people who encourage positivity.
You — Your good habit has to be something you really want and not just something someone else wants or thinks you should do. If you want it and others agree with it, that’s fine–just be sure you are serious about it and not attempting to build the good habit simply because of what others think.
Accountability — This might be the toughest of them all since it can lead to confrontations, but this one is definitely one of the most important of them all too. Tell your family and friends what you’re up to. Chances are if you start going back to your bad habits, at least one of them will say something to help you get focused again. Don’t let yourself or them down! It is all about you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t care about how they’ll feel if you fail. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking for any pity parties anytime soon.
I’m looking for great dinners and more.
My new grocery getter! I wonder if the trailer would look better with wood panels…