As you approach the New Year, you may be considering how you might change some of your less helpful habits—habits that are holding you back from being your “best” self. Or, perhaps you are thinking about which of your “bad” habits are preventing you from being happier, healthier, and more successful.
As a stress management coach, I offer specific strategies on how to manage and reduce stress in the lives of my clients. These strategies also help them become more resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.
For the purposes of today’s message, I would like to focus on 5 steps that you can start taking today to take you to a better 2015:
1) Make a decision. The first step you must take before making any change, much less maintaining a better habit, is actually to make the decision that you are going to change. You must first decide that you are going to change and maintain an improved habit (or habits) in the upcoming year. A decision is different from a wish, a hope, or a dream, and making a decision to change something in your life is the first step toward making any meaningful change that is likely to last.
2) Change only one thing at a time. People don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions—and let’s face it, most don’t—because they overwhelm themselves with making a dozen “resolutions” when they need to focus on one change at a time. If you have multiple areas of your life where you want to make significant changes, you need to choose the top one that you feel is the most urgent to your health, happiness or success, and start there. If you try to make more than one change at a time, you are dooming yourself to failure before you even get started.
3) Create S.M.A.R.T. goals. “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Relevant, and Timely (or Time Limited).” A habit is something that is deeply ingrained. You engage in the behavior in question automatically and without thinking. That’s why it is called a habit. There is no denying that habits are hard to break. If that weren’t the case, we would drop bad habits in a hurry with little effort, right? But habits are sneaky…they drive your actions through your subconscious. So turn changing the habit into a goal and then establish parameters around how and why you want to change by creating S.M.A.R.T. goal language around it.
4) Write your goal on a piece of paper and refer to it daily. There is something about writing down a goal that makes it feel more achievable than when it is just rattling around in your head. Write down your goal and write it in terms that comport with the S.M.A.R.T. goals in #3. In addition, write down why you want to change this habit. If you are a smoker and you want to quit smoking, write down why you want to do that. Is it because you don’t want to be a poor role model for your kids? Is it because you are tired of your clothes smelling like a stale ashtray all the time? Whatever the reason for your making the decision to change your habit, write it down. Then, carry the paper with you so that when you are tempted to revert to the old habit—and you will be tempted many times—you can remind yourself of the reasons for wanting to make the change.
5) Share your goal with others and/or get a coach if you need one to hold you accountable for your actions. There is something about sharing goals with other people that keeps you more honest than if you keep the goal to yourself. If you make a decision to lose ten pounds between New Year’s day and March 31, 2015, that is something you CAN do…it falls under the heading of something you can translate into a S.M.A.R.T. goal…and if you stick to the resolve you felt when you made the decision, it is definitely doable. There are going to be times, however, when you will feel tempted to go back to your old habits of eating poorly and not exercising enough to be successful. You will be tempted to give up. If you have shared your goal with someone else, you are far more likely to stick with it. You may choose a friend or a buddy who will hold you to your promise to yourself. Perhaps you could use a coach that you hire specifically for the purpose of helping you stay motivated and to keep you honest throughout the process.
I have participated in a program around setting goals for myself as a business woman for the New Year. One of the important distinctions that the program offered is one that I believe might be helpful to you as you enter 2015. That distinction is to remember that your past does not define your future. You may have tried to quit smoking before and failed. You may have attempted to lose ten pounds before and gave up because it got hard or was inconvenient or you just couldn’t stick to your resolve.
That was then…this is now…it is a new day. This time you CAN be successful! You must first make a decision that this time is different, however. Decide once and for all that whatever it is that you want to change is not only something you wish you could do or just want to do…decide that it is something you will do…no excuses…and then follow the other four steps offered above to get you there. Tackle one bad habit at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once. One habit at a time, one day at a time…you can do this. Happy New Year.
For more information about Kitty Boitnott at Boitnott Coaching, LLC, contact her at BoitnottCoaching.com and subscribe to her newsletter by opting in for the free stress management evaluation that is available on her website. Or, fill out the form below: