Another new year is upon us. 2013 is particularly special. We survived the Mayan apocalypse, made it through the holiday season, celebrated the New Year in style and now we have begun the year ahead of us in earnest. At this point, all those New Year’s resolutions that you made late last year should be put in to practice, assuming they are to be taken seriously. But how do you stick to your new year’s resolutions, especially when the novelty of it all wears off and the lure of habits is too hard to ignore?
This may sound all zen-like and new age, but it all comes down to concentration, focusing on the present, and keeping at the forefront of your mind the reason you made the resolution in the first place (most of the time it is to avoid the negative consequences of your habit, how it made you feel, and how you are not in control of it).
That sounds very easy to do, but nothing could be further from the truth. A habit usually forms when you need a short term lift, or to take your mind off things or even to feel better about yourself. Very soon, that one-off hit that gave you short-term pleasure will turn in to a habit you will seek to repeat day in and day out until you reach a point where you have to make New Year’s resolutions to stop doing it because of the negative effects that habit is having on your life.
Take something as simple as quitting coffee, which is something I can personally relate to. When I made the resolution to stop drinking coffee regularly some time ago, one of the first habits I had to break was the mid-morning latte. Working at a desk as much as I do, I found my mid-morning latte or cappuccino to be the perfect way to boost my concentration and then power me through the day. The positive feelings associated with this habit were very powerful. However, there were big trade-offs. By mid-afternoon, I would feel very vague and unmotivated. I would have trouble getting to sleep at night, despite being tired. This unmotivated and vague state would then continue into the next day, presumably because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. And that’s where the habit starts!
The way I combated this daily habit was to keep remembering those major negative effects I would experience later in the day at the time I felt the need to get a coffee in the morning. I don’t always make it, but it works 95% of the time, and that’s good enough for me! The key is not to put that extra pressure on yourself to never fail, because at some point, you will give in, and that’s okay. Breaking a habit after all takes time, effort and more than one attempt.
So with whatever New Year’s resolution you have made, if you want to stick to it, just keep it in the forefront of your mind, concentrate on the moment and always remember why you made the resolutions in the first place. You are more likely to relapse into your habits when your mind wanders and you think of the positive feelings associated with indulging your habit. Just remember that there are even larger benefits if you break your habits!