According to U.S. News, 80 percent of us give up on our New Year’s resolutions by the second week of February. That’s a blight statistic for those of us who want to pursue growth in our lives. But I don’t mention this statistic to bring you down or to try to pop your dream bubble. I personally have loved New Year’s resolutions for as long as I can remember.
The nuance of a fresh start and the opportunity to grow and be a better version of myself is so inspiring to me. This year I read the quote, “Often the richest lives are created by people who strive not to accumulate more, but to be more,” from Good Clean Love founder Wendy Strgar. And I felt that it truly embodied this feeling I’ve had for so long of wanting to be a better version of myself. Yet, if only 8% of us actually stick with New Year’s resolutions, this doesn’t seem to be the best model for growth and self-improvement.
So, why don’t resolutions work? And how can we create real, lasting change in our lives? The answer to both questions is rooted in our day-to-day habits and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Automatic behavior that occurs without much conscious thought.
Depending on your life experience, you may love the word habit or it might make you cringe.
But here’s some positive news: you already have literally HUNDREDS of habits, many of which you don't even remember forming. Creating habits can’t be that hard or else you wouldn't have so many of them!
Many of the habits we want to create are things like eating healthier, exercising more, spending less time on our phones, spending more time with family, or any number of other “automatic” behaviors. What we’re really talking about is changing existing behavior or making new behaviors more natural and automatic.
So, how do we do this?
1. Start Small and Be Specific
To say that you want to “get more exercise” is not small. That is much too broad. “Drink more water” is also not ideal because it isn’t specific enough. Instead, pick one behavior that’s part of the bigger goal and/or specify exactly what you’ll do. For example, you could set a goal like “drink 60 oz. of water every day.”
2. Attach the New Action to a Previous Habit
Think about a habit you already have that is well established. For example, maybe you can update your existing habit of “Walk into the kitchen in the morning” to have the stimulus of “Fill up my water bottle.”
3. Make the New Action As Easy As Possible For At Least the First Week
Because you are trying to establish an automatic response, you need to practice the new habit about three to seven times before it will “stick” on its own. To help you through this beginning phase, make it as EASY as possible. For example, put your water bottle out on the counter the night before so you see it and it’s ready to go in the morning.
4. Know That You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Successful
The best habits are built over time and science has now shown that for most of us, creating lasting habits takes more than 21 days. According to a 2009 study, it’s actually closer to 66 days. The take-away message here is that if you want to develop a new behavior, it will take time, and you shouldn't despair if three weeks doesn't do the trick. For most people that's simply not enough time.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process. This is why it’s a good idea to give yourself permission to make mistakes and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.
These tips are all well and good, but if we don’t change the way we think about ourselves and our ability to make change in our life, these tips may still not help us. This is why “self stories” are such an important part of this journey.
The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what’s important to us.
Self stories drive a lot of our behavior because the way we see ourselves has a powerful influence on decisions and actions. By changing your self story, it’s possible to achieve a larger and more long-term behavior change.
Maybe you have an awesome self story. Maybe you already tell yourself that no matter what happens, you can keep going, you can make it through, and you can reach your goals.
But maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to change, but there’s still a voice in the back of your head reminding you of past missed goals and the thought that this motion for change is probably going to end the same way.
Wherever you’re at with your self-story, this practice from Psychology Today is a great thought experiment if you want to build new habits.
1. Write out your existing story.
Pay special attention to anything about the story that goes AGAINST the new habit you want to adopt. So if your goal is to learn how to unplug and be less stressed, then write out a story that is realistic, that shows that it's hard for you to de-stress, or how you tend to get overly involved in dramas at home or at work.
2. Now re-write the story – create a new self-story.
Tell the story of the new way of being. Tell the story of the person who appreciates life and takes time to take care of themselves.
This seems to simple, but the research says it works!
#YouCan Coming in 2019
Why are we talking about resolutions, habits and self-stories here at Good Clean Love? Because we believe you are powerful beyond your wildest dreams. We believe YOU CAN do whatever you set your mind to. And we believe your needs and desires matter and deserved to be heard.
For those reasons, Good Clean Love will be launching a new social media campaign in early January 2019 called #YouCan. We’re so excited to be continuing our mission of empowering women to experience the most and best out of their health, relationships, and sex life. We hope you’ll be with us along the way!