We are goal setting creatures. The tradition of New Year resolutions pays testament to this. We have designed our entire calendar system to reflect one of goal setting. Each year, we evaluate the changes we want to see in our lives, and we stand proud and announce our resolutions to the world.
This year, I’m going to lose weight! Run more! Cut out sugar! Quit smoking! Stop procrastinating! Let’s do this! New Year, New Me! Yet, no matter what the level of determination we brought to our goals, come spring, we are more or less back to our ways. Why is this?
Maybe we are coming at the changes from the wrong angle.
I want you to think about one of the resolutions you have made in the past. Something you wanted to achieve in your life. For example, let’s say the resolution was cutting out sugar. This seems like a very popular choice these days. Now, think about what the current state of things was that led you to want to make that resolution in the first place. This would be your sugar consumption, whether that’s eating Milky Way bars on the daily, or putting sugar in your coffee every morning. Now, and this is the important part, ask yourself: what goals did you set to reach that current state? In other words, what action-planning and goal-setting did you do ahead of time to reach your current state of sugar consumption?
Yes, that is a trick question. If you value eating healthy, I highly doubt you intentionally constructed a step by step plan to increase your sugar consumption. I have never seen a book the shelves that says “30 Days to 30 Twinkies: How To Complete Destroy Your Diet.”
We don’t plan our way into our unhealthy habits. So why do we think we can plan our way out of them?
If we never formed an action plan to eat twinkies, why do we eat twinkies at all? We aren’t INTENDING to eat them. And we certainly aren’t RESOLVING to eat them. Yet when we want to eat less twinkies, we get our our vision boards and our 30 day challenges and expect permanent transformation.
The thing is, if we don’t understand what is at the root of our behaviors, resolutions are powerless to make lasting, sustainable changes in our lives.
This blog is a dedication to habit change. Habits are the things we do without thinking or planning. Things we do that just effortlessly happen. We are prewired to make habits, and once formed, our habits are a total pain in the ass to change. But if we understand how they work from the inside out, we can win habits at their own game, and free up our mental energy to do something more fulfilling than freaking out about our macronutrient levels or our word count deadlines.
What resolutions have you set in the past that work out in the long run? What do you think got in the way? Where could an action plan help you turn your resolution into a sustainable habit?