If you are like many, you rang in the New Year with renewed hope and aspiration to “do better than last year.” Perhaps food and fitness were on your list, or more family time. Maybe you wanted to watch less Netflix and read more books. You might have even had more serious goals like curbing an ad- diction. Regardless of the content, you may have aimed too high, missed right away, and trashed your goals completely!
Alas, all is not lost. You are not alone in your desire for change, but most of us do not achieve the goals we set because we take the wrong approach. We’ve been taught to make resolutions and walk them out day by day for three weeks until they become a habitual part of our lives. Scientific research reveals, however, that the 21 day approach to forming a habit is a myth. It takes our brains much, much longer to create neural pathways that result in habitual behavior that is, behavior that doesn’t require any forethought or effort, but is like second nature.
Apparently, we do ourselves a disservice by setting lofty goals. Failure is inevitable because instead of triggering the “reward hormone” when we complete a task, we trigger feelings of guilt and self loathing if we don’t execute accurately in the self allotted time. So what’s the solution?
Happy you asked! I stumbled upon a great book a few months that boasted promising results. Mini Habits by Stephen Guise explains how our minds operate and why traditional goal setting techniques are flawed. He changed the entire course of his life by committing to just one push up per day.
You see, life is busy. Daily demands often overshadow our desire to change for the better. Setting a goal to work out for 30 minutes a day and never actually doing it is detrimental to our self esteem and actually hurts our will power. Setting the goal lower like a few jumping jacks or running in place for five minutes makes it doable, even on the most hectic of days. It sounds simple, but the effects can be profound. The changes that transpire in our brain can be highly beneficial and even life changing. Consider all the “bad habits” people have. Nobody woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll spend eight hours on my phone every day” or “I’ll become an alcoholic” or “I’ll collect things I don’t need.” No, every one of our addictions started with a single act.
Likewise, good habits are developed slowly over time. They are best started by declaring small, achievable goals, those you can accomplish on even your craziest days. So, take a minute and rewind your resolutions. Shave them down a bit and discover the joy of accomplishment! Before you know it, the year will conclude and you’ll be so used to your habit you might just have forgotten it started in the smallest of ways.