How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick (Step 1: Don’t Call Them Resolutions)
Badass Habits author Jen Sincero highlights the most effective tricks for making your hard-earned routines last long after Groundhog Day.
Mastering the powerful, positive mindset that’s required to keep upping your habits game is all about staying aware, shifting your focus when you catch yourself wandering down Woe-Is-Me Lane, and consciously thinking thoughts that are aligned with where you want to go and who you want to be. When it comes to building great habits and ditching lousy ones, your commitment to staying focused on who you’re becoming, regardless of who you are right now, is the mightiest power you’ve got.
1. Develop a mightier mantra
One of the most powerful tools for habit transformation is also one of the simplest—the almighty mantra. You already use mantras all the time, whether you realize it or not: “I can’t lose this pregnancy weight.” “I hate my ears.” “I always date crazy people.” You have already created the “reality” in which you exist via the thoughts, habits, and actions you’ve repeated over and over throughout your life. You will experience whatever you believe. And you will believe whatever you repeatedly tell yourself is true. Which is why ditching those types of mantras and consciously creating (and endlessly repeating) ones that are aligned with what you’d like to experience and who you’d like to become is a powerful way to change your life.
2. Anticipate your distractions
Get your notebook, think about a habit you’re trying to form, and write down everything you can think of—screwing around on Twitter, suddenly making a lasagna, brushing the dog—that might block your ability to participate. Please also make a list of the people in your life who may be too partylicious to be around while you give up drinking, too pessimistic to hang out with while you do your part to help end world hunger, too chatty to talk with while you quit gossiping—and make a point to limit your time with them.
3. Decide to believe
Commit to change, and conviction will follow. Some experts believe that in order to stick with a habit, we have to have faith in our ability to change. We humans decide to believe stuff all the time with little or no proof that it’s possible or real: We decide to believe in a god; we decided to believe we could go to the moon. Belief is a muscle, and when you’re changing a stubborn old habit and really stretching yourself, a hell-bent decision is the perfect personal trainer to get your belief in shape.
4. Write it down (in all caps)
Write down the habit you’re going to work on in a notebook. Once you focus on and embody it, it’ll become just a part of who you are, and nothing special. And then, because we’re all creatures in a constant state of transformation, you’ll shift your attention to some newer, fresher habit, and you’ll have the confidence, know-how, and tools to make it yours as well.
5. Mark each day that you show up
You know what’s immediately satisfying? Tracking your habits. While you may not see the actual results of the actions you take every day, you will see how many days you’ve stayed on course with the new habit, which is a huge accomplishment in itself. Each time you successfully participate in your habit—walk three miles, say not one snarky thing to your mother—mark that day on a calendar. Use something ceremonial, like a special pen or a gold star sticker. The simple task of acknowledging a job well done is very satisfying, and being able to look back over days and weeks and months of successfully doing what you promised yourself you’d do is even better.
6. Book it
Put in place something that will hold you accountable for sticking with your habit. If you’re learning piano, book a gig at a friend’s party or a club or on Facebook Live. Throw yourself a big anniversary party to celebrate six months of not smoking—and send out the invites, put down the nonrefundable deposit on the band, and ask for the time off from work. Come up with some future sort of something and spend today booking it, buying it, and inviting all your friends to it, and let the deadline work its harrowing magic of holding you to your habit.
7. Develop new habits 20 minutes at a time
Take a moment now to think about your habit and come up with a way to shrink it into a tiny, bite-size task. Adopting new habits can seem daunting, especially if you’re shifting a way of being that you’ve been participating in for the majority of your life. This is why the practice of taking things one day at a time (for 20 minutes at a time) is so liberating: It removes the drama of “forever” from the equation and allows us to more softly put aside old ways. It also allows us to step back and practice imperfection, process, and patience by acknowledging that change takes time.
From Badass Habits by Jen Sincero, Published by Penguin Life, an Imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2020 by Good Witch LLC.