The #1 Hack for Achieving Resolutions
The season of New Year’s Resolutions is among us!
Each year many of us go about the task of setting goals for the new year. Although studies show that the success rate of New Year’s Resolutions is not very high, past failures don’t seem to keep us from setting new goals each year.
New Year’s Resolutions typically involve outlining new behaviors and habits we will follow in the coming year.
Unfortunately, many of us find that creating new habits that stick can be very challenging since the majority of our existing habits have been automated by our subconscious mind.
Interestingly, these existing automated habits get processed in a different area of our brain than new behaviors we are attempting to establish into our routines.
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains, “As a behavior becomes a habit, as it becomes automatic, it moves into the basal ganglia, which is one of the oldest structures in our brain and it’s near the center of our skull. And when things happen in the basal ganglia, it doesn’t feel like thought.” 2
Meanwhile, new behaviors that we are attempting to establish get processed in the prefrontal cortex, the outermost layer of our brain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for conscious thought, decision making, and willpower.
Thus, to perform new behaviors, we have to think more, make tough decisions, and exercise willpower. These processes take a significant amount of energy, which is why we often fall back performing automated habits, which require our brain to expend significantly less energy.
Once we automate habits, we no longer have to expend massive amounts of time and energy to perform them. They occur almost effortlessly.
So, it would seem the most effective thing we could do is make our desired behaviors automatic habits. But the question is, how?!
Repetition, of course, is the best teacher.
Additionally, there is a critical hack that will help accelerate your acquisition of new habits. That is:
The fastest way to acquire a new habit is to perform it every day.
Think about the things that are easiest to do, the things that you do almost automatically. Eating, sleeping, walking, and grooming are all tasks that you perform every day. Likewise, you do these tasks virtually without thinking about them or expending any willpower to do so.
Now, think about behaviors that do not occur every day. Most of us go to work 5 days a week, may go to the gym 3-4 times per week, and may only call a loved one once a week or every other week.
Generally, as behaviors get spaced out in frequency, they are less automated and require more thought and willpower to perform.
Some goals like exercising or eating healthy may appear challenging to do every day; that is why it is critical to have a minimum requirement that you can continue every day.
Even if you can’t get to the gym each day, you can at least perform a 15-minute exercise stretch at home.
Even if you have a diet cheat day, you can continue to log your food intake so that you can track your progress with accuracy.
Even if you get behind and don’t have time to journal before bed, take out your pad and write at least one sentence!
The key to habit-building is every day.
Even if the task you are completing is small, consistency and keeping the momentum is the path to success.
So good luck! Let 2020 be the year you write at least one new habit!