Not to go all literary on you, but with thanks to the poet Robert Burns (and an old Scottish proverb), I’ll start with one of my favorite quotes: "the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”
That pretty much sums up how I feel at some point almost every February.
I start the new year ready to conquer the world…or at least ready to conquer whatever resolutions I set for myself. Suddenly, it’s late February and I realize my workout clothes haven’t seen a good sweat in a month and my healthier diet has given way to fast-food lunches and candy bar snacks…again.
What happened? Who knows. Life gets busy. Stuff happens. Things get in the way. To paraphrase Mr. Burns, my best-laid plans often fall flat on their face.
Join the Club!
Here’s the deal. Changing everyday habits, no matter how committed we are, is no easy task. And, according to human behavior experts, adding the pressure of making change a part of your New Year’s resolutions can make it even harder. We all fall short at some point or another, it happens to us all.
Habits – good and bad – are born gradually, becoming second nature over time, and allowing you to work on autopilot. That’s great when it’s a good habit, but requires a conscious, intentional effort to break a bad one.
Small Steps, Big Rewards
Here’s the good news, you can start again. Nothing stops you from hitting the reset button and starting over. No guilt. No shame. Just the opportunity for a fresh start.
This time, however, look for a new approach. Sure, we all want fast results, but when changing old habits, having a solid game plan and a “slow and steady” mentality is the way to go. Consider the following small steps from Breathe Magazine, to build a consistent, sustainable, and motivational blueprint for success.
- Be Intentional
Focus yourself on what you want to accomplish. Take the time to be mindful of your goal, consciously reflecting on what you want to change, why and how. Don’t try to boil the ocean, start with a single change to make in your life, not everything you want to change.
- Replace Bad with Good
The easiest way to break a bad habit is to form a new one. By replacing what you want to change with a good habit helps build a strong reason to make it happen. Document what you want to change and include why you want to make them, making your reasons crystal clear in your mind.
- Create a Plan
Develop a strategy and plan for change. Nothing happens by accident. Simply by creating a plan for change, you make your effort more real and you give yourself a roadmap to success.
- Conscious Rehearsal
Visualization is a proven method for improving results. Find a time and place each day to spend a few minutes mentally rehearsing, visualizing yourself doing what you need to do to be successful and the satisfaction you will receive when you accomplish it.
- Take Action
Put your planning to work. Don’t wait for the perfect time. It will likely never come. Even small steps help you build momentum and incremental progress drives motivation. Keep a journal or diary, noting your efforts, documenting your progress and reinforcing your accomplishments.
- Time to Reflect
Find a regular time to stop and reflect on your efforts of the past week. Make notes on your progress. Include the challenges you encountered, and how you overcame them. Include your successes and short falls, both help you recognize your efforts and identify obstacles to overcome.
- Find a Partner
For many, finding an Accountability Partner can dramatically improve success in establishing new habits. Having someone to provide feedback, suggestions, and objective opinions can help keep you accountable and on the path to success.
Yes, the best laid plans of mice and men really do often go astray. But, that’s okay because we can always try again…only next time, arm yourself with the approach, strategy and plan to turn yesterday’s setback into tomorrow’s success.