BY CHRISTINA GREENBERG
Many people choose January 1 to make New Year’s Resolutions and set goals for the year. When you think about it, resolutions are really habits. You make a resolution because you want to add a new habit to your life, a workout routine, learning a language or reading more, or stop a bad habit, such as quitting smoking, eliminating fast food from your diet, or cutting down on TV.
Here’s something to think about: after the lazy days of summer, fall is like a new beginning – the kids are back at school, extra-curricular activities get underway and work projects gear up. With the start of a new, more disciplined schedule, it’s the perfect time of year to begin a new habit.
So how do you get started? Here are 3 strategies to consider in your new habit plan.
1. Set SMART Goals
SMART goals are part of almost every business project these days and you’ve probably used them in your job. They’re great for evaluating projects and building a tactics and strategies, and they’re also helpful when starting a new habit.
S – Specific
To successfully create a new habit in your life, you need to set a specific goal with active, positive language – not “I want to lose weight” or “I want to read more”, but “I will lose 25 pounds” or “I will read one book a week/month”.
M – Measurable
Be clear on how you will accomplish it. Set purposeful targets that you can track. Will you lose 1, 3 or 5 pounds each week? How many pages will you read each day?
A – Attainable
If you are unrealistic about your goal, you will be discouraged if you don’t achieve it. You won’t see the results you want, and this is when many people quit. Maybe you want to lose five pounds each week, but is this reasonable with your schedule and lifestyle? Why not start out losing one pound per week and if you can do this regularly, increase to 2 pounds, or even 3. If you know your busy schedule won’t allow you to read a book a week, a chapter a day may be more attainable. There’s no rule that says you can’t make changes along the way!
R – Relevant or Reward
While relevancy is a business goal, rewards may be more motivating when it comes to personal goals. Choose a reward you will earn as you reach a milestone; if you meet your monthly workout goal you can buy those new shoes you’ve had your eye on or if you finish a book you can buy a new one.
T – Timely
Based on the goal and how you’re measuring it, determine your timeline. Establish milestones to track accomplishments (remember, they need to be realistic) and as you make progress, adjust your daily and weekly objectives. Schedule your objectives in your calendar and treat it with the same level of importance as a business meeting.
2. Try it for 30 days
In the TedTalk “Try something new for 30 days” Matt Cutts says that if you really want something badly enough, you can do it for 30 days.
The trick, he says, is to make small sustainable changes as these are more likely to stick. You can have a large goal but break it down into smaller steps – similar the SMART idea. The more you accomplish, the more motivated you will be to continue with your new habit.
“I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not,” says Matt. “So why not think about something you’ve always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days.”
Decide to take the stairs in the parking garage. Bring your lunch 3 times a week. Touch base with a different contact each day by email or phone. Whatever it is, commit to do this for 30 days and see how far you’ll get!
3. Be accountable
Another way to create and maintain a habit is to enlist the help of a friend or family member. Schedule a weekly check-in with them to share your progress and outline your plans for the following week.
You could also find someone who wants to begin the new habit too, such as a workout buddy. When you have someone counting on you to meet them at the gym, you’ll show up even on the days you feel like skipping out. Try to find a group of like-minded people – for example, if your new habit is reading more, join a local book club.
In the end, if you really want to start a new habit, YOU must want to do it. If your new habit is to make someone else happy or if you think you “should” do it, you’ll find it harder to succeed. Choose a habit that excites you, make the commitment – and make it happen!
Do you have tips or tricks on how you’ve successfully established a new habit in your life? Share your story!