As the saying goes, “New year, new me.” It’s tempting to make a life-changing promise to ourselves at the change of the year. We make a New Years’ resolution to lose weight, learn a language, or practice mindfulness, telling all our friends about it, but what happens?
Without the right plan: nothing.
New Years’ resolutions are great in theory but terrible in practice. The problem is: they make you feel great. Resolving and telling the world about it floods your brain with dopamine, rewarding you for the hard work you haven’t started yet.
Then, when you start and realize how hard your resolution is, your motivation fades. Without telling a soul, you quit. We have all been there; we have all made big promises to ourselves, only to fall back on them when circumstances change and reset our habits.
Your ambition was great, but your approach needed to be corrected. Growth requires ambitious goals, but achieving them will take sacrifice. Significant change is unlikely to happen because it is often unsustainable. It asks for too much of a sacrifice upfront before you are willing to put in the effort.
To achieve your resolution, you need to break it down, create a path to follow then forget about the goal as you focus on the course. As you follow this path, you will activate the feedback loop of motivation, sustaining your motion. After all, habits follow the law of inertia – objects in motion stay in motion, and objects at rest, stay at rest at rest
To build up this habitual momentum, you must break your goal into atomic habits. Giving 100% of your energy on the first of January can lead to burnout. Instead, give your resolution 1% of your energy on day one and build up that effort with the following steps.
4-Steps to success
Step 1: Create the identity
To make change more sticky, you must identify with it. Do you want to achieve something, or is that achievement who you are? The more personal you can make your goal, the more likely you will accomplish it.
Habits are like an onion with identity at the center and layer upon layer of complimentary habits wrapped around it. How you identify will guide the habits you easily acquire. To make it easier to start a new practice, bundle it with something that corresponds to your identity.
Habit bundling is delicate and requires precision to avoid growing unsustainable habits. However, it can be your superpower in learning to enjoy any discipline when done correctly. Once you find a positive way to identify with the change, you are ready for your next step.
Step 2: Starting
Knowing where to start will depend on your goal and how close you are to attaining it. Your first step should be something that you can accomplish today. For fitness, language and mindfulness, this could be a short walk, learning a single word or a three-minute meditation, respectively.
This step is about creating a habit that can easily be sustained. This is the atomic habit that will become a part of your routine. Whatever your goal is, break it down into something that can be done in five minutes without effort. Do this until it becomes instinctive, but don’t hesitate to increase the difficulty.
Step 3: increase the difficulty.
Without increased difficulty, you will quickly get bored and abandon the practice. Improvements in most disciplines fall prey to the snake effect – incremental changes that are invisible until they begin to compound and start to impress everyone but you.
For a habit to be sustainable, you must make the invisible – visible. You do this by maintaining a mild level of difficulty. If it’s too easy, you will get bored. Meanwhile, if it’s too hard, you will get frustrated. Finding the balance where the task is continually mildly challenging is crucial for continuous growth in preparation for the final step.
Step 4: sustaining your gains
The hardest part of this journey comes once you are happy with your progress or have reached your goal. At this point, getting a success hangover and losing the progress you made while attaining your goal is easy.
This is the danger of goals; they can be reached. After reaching your goal, your identity comes back into the picture, is the habit you formed who you are or something you wanted to do? If it has become a part of who you are, you are ready for your next challenge.
The purpose of life is to learn to appreciate the journey. In enjoying the journey and practicing aimlessness, we find fulfilment and reach heights we assumed were unattainable.
If you haven’t guessed by now, step 4 is not really the final step; it’s the beginning. Fulfilment occurs when we turn goals become a feedback loop of growth. When we accomplish what we have set out to do, we appreciate the development we have made and start over.
Diets are temporary and rarely work. Instead, make a lifestyle change this New Year and go into 2023, knowing that life is long and the best way to approach it is one step at a time.
If you want to transform your life next year, I can help. Subscribe to my newsletter below to access my weekly broadcast and receive a free one-hour coaching session to discuss what you can accomplish this year.