How are your new year’s resolutions going? What? It is June, what are you talking about?! You have probably forgotten all about your resolutions. Maybe you thought about it briefly with the weather being summerly and a glance in the mirror told you that your summer-proof-body-project had failed. Or when your manager gave you a warning about the number of missed deadlines during your midyear review. Or maybe you do not even make them anymore because you gave up each time, so what is the point of doing it.
People who know me know that I regularly train at the gym, that I run once/ twice a week and that my (fit) shape is very constant. Most of the time I eat nutritious products, am I on time for appointments, do I never miss a deadline and I keep my commitments. At least I will do my utmost best to do what I promise. People call me disciplined.
I guess I am, but I don’t think that is the reason why I am doing things the way I am doing. Only discipline is not enough to achieve my goals, to finish that report in time or to go to the gym at 7 in the morning. So what is my secret? Is it willpower? I do have willpower and I use it from time to time, but is that inexhaustible? No, it is not as we all know, because willpower is not something you can rely on every day. So, what is it? What is my secret?
Standards and habits
Really? That simple? Yes, it is. Well, no, actually it is not that simple. Because if it was simple, not so many people would struggle with their new year’s resolutions. But it is my standards and my habits that make me who I am and what I do.
Does that mean I always do the right thing? No! Because there are times that I am tired and I do not feel like going to the gym. There are moments that I prefer to have dinner with friends than to finish that report on time. And of course, sometimes, I do procrastinate. I am human, not a robot. But what wins is the standards I have for myself. I do what is important to me. Not for anyone else, but to me.
People are creatures of habits and routines. One more than the other, but we all have habits. Good and bad. Morning routines, workplace rituals, smoking habits, drinking habits, eating habits, all kind of habits. Consistent actions become habits and your habits say a lot about who you are. Do you want to make a change in your habits for the better? It only takes 7 steps.
Do you live up to your standards?
What do YOU want? Who do YOU want to be? Not your partner, your manager, your parent or whoever. What you want and who you want to have to be what you really want, the truth. Why? You can not rely on willpower and discipline to become an improved version of yourself. You are the one making your decisions every day and every decision you make defines you. Every decision, big and small, says something about you. That means you have to be true to yourself otherwise you will fail.
Changing habits is not easy and there is no fast lane. You have to be truly committed. And you can only commit yourself to the long term when it is something YOU want.
What set of standards works for you and gives a good representation of who you are and who you want to be? Here are the 7 steps that help you to define your standards and to create new habits:
Write your standards down and be as specific as possible.
Who do you want to be? What makes you proud of who you are? What makes you happy? What is important to you? This is different for every person. Do not look to others and try to lift up to their standards. Find your own standards. Not the standards that sound good or what should be your standard according to whoever.
Do you believe that what you want is possible? If you do not believe it is possible, you will not commit to your standards, resulting in not finding your inner motivation to act. Writing down your standards is necessary to make a connection to what you want. Only keeping it in mind is not enough. When you do not connect to what you want, it is not likely that you will keep your standard, because you do not really commit.
Write your actions down and chunk them up in smaller steps that lead to your new habit.
It is hard to create new habits. When your steps are too hard to achieve, it is more likely that you will give up at some point. It is not motivating you to continue. When you have little victories every day/ every week you will feel motivated to keep going. Change things step by step. Every step is one step closer to that new habit.
Be realistic about your goals, about your time and the required timeframe to create new habits.
The journey will take longer than you want. It is lifelong pleasure that you are after, not a quick fix that does not last. Schedule time in your life to do what is necessary to create the new routine. Be realistic on your goals, nothing is less motivating than goals that cannot be achieved. It is not about time, but about priority. If something is a priority in your life, you will find the time to do it. And not everything can be a priority in your life, so what is really important to you. Think about your standards to help you choose where you spend your time on.
What do you need to make this new habit yours?
Ask for help and support if you need it. When you want to create new habits, it helps when you have someone who helps you in the process. Someone who you do not want to disappoint. Someone committed to you and helps you during tough moments. Someone that holds you accountable for your actions. Someone to help you see your progression when you think there is none.
Make it visible for yourself when your new habit is a mental habit. By for example using a bracelet. Change it from one arm to the other when you have a setback. It makes you conscious of your actions.
Repeat your actions every day until it is automatic behavior.
Do not give up when you fall into your old habit. Just start again and continue. Repeat. Over and over again. If you stop, you will have the feeling that you have failed. When you continue after a sidestep you can be proud of yourself. It is a totally different feeling. Creating a new habit is to do things consistently (every day), until that moment you realize you do not think about it, you just do it.
When you have a hard time, write down what you think.
Writing down helps to declutter your thinking and to see patterns in your thinking. When you see your pattern, you can take necessary action. Is your thinking true? No? Change it to something that is. Does it help you towards your goal? No? Do something that helps you towards your goal.
Do not stay in your head, because you will think in circles. Write it down, preferably old school with pen and paper. It works like a mirror, you see your own pattern and you are able to make changes that work and that is in line with your standards.
Be conscious about your progression and celebrate your achievements.
It is important to see how far you have come. Count the days you are successful in your new routine. Measure your actions. Progress is motivation and motivation is fuel for the next step.
Your actions reflect on who you are. When you know your standards, you can choose actions in alignment with who you are. It gives you a reason to make the right choice for the long term. And, do not wait until the end of the year to start with what you want for yourself. The time is never right, just start!
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