We’ve all had new year’s resolutions fail once the initial motivation passes. When this happens, it’s easy to revert back to old, default patterns of behaviour which move us no closer to any desired changes.
Rather than hoping to achieve perfection or a complete overhaul of your life, focus instead on the general trajectory on which you’re moving.
Aim for incremental change and compound growth, rather than sudden transformation. Habit formation is key to lasting behavioural change. Research suggests that new habits take several weeks of repetition to become an automatic behaviour. Once a habit is established, it is no longer dependent on fickle motivation.
Here are some strategies for forming habits, and making them stick:
Work towards goals that are interesting and satisfying enough to avoid boredom, but achievable enough that you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment or failure.
Use a habit track – a calendar, journal or app – to visualise and measure your progress.
Habit stacking: use environmental cues, such as existing habits, times and locations to guild a desired habit onto an existing one. Think: after [existing behaviour], I will [desired habit].
Consider finding an accountability partner – a ‘habit contract’ adds a social cost which many people find helpful for maintaining good habits.
To build a better habit, make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
For more information about the laws of behaviour change and habits read Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear; or Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin.