Over the past few years, I’ve developed a hate for New Year’s resolutions.
Sure the intentions are always good, but I tended to make 3 or 4 goals that were fairly broad and after a couple of weeks, the piece if paper I wrote them on was likely never to be seen again (or chucked in one of many odd places by my two year-old son).
Goals usually line up with a specific outcome or result.
“I want to lose 10 pounds.”
“I want lower my marathon time by 20 minutes.”
“I want to eliminate gluten from my diet.”
When starting out, these goals may seem daunting.
Instead of focusing on goals and results, I prefer to focus on habits – especially if I’m trying to adopt a new behavior.
This took me a long time to learn.
Habits are tricky. Some are easy to create and some are terribly difficult.
The same goes for bad habits. A bad habit can be stopped on a dime or be your sidekick for the rest of your life.
My approach to habits has evolved over the years (gotta be some perks to the grey hair coming in).
There is one overarching philosophy related habits that now guides me when I am looking to adopt a new behavior – one that takes me eventually to my desired goal.
The focus is on the behavior however, not the goal.
This concept really resonates with me and here’s how it works.
I have a sweet-tooth. Always have.
M&Ms, yes please. Wine gums – I’ll polish of a huge bag in one sitting (as will my mother-in-law!).
A couple of years ago, I decided I want to focus on consuming less sugar. Again, where do I start? Do I eliminate sweets altogether? That sounded hard and likely not sustainable for me.
I decided to focus on one period during the day when I was most likely to have a sugar craving. The afternoon snack!
I know I am not alone – those mid-afternoon moments when you’re feeling a little fatigued and crave something to pick you up and sustain you until dinner.
So, I decided to become the kind of person that didn’t have an afternoon snack – with no specific focus on sugar. At most, I had an espresso (with no sugar) instead.
After a month or so of ditching the afternoon snack, the afternoon sugar cravings disappeared.
And it has transpired into the rest of my day as well – I eat (and crave) way less sugar than I used to.
I didn’t deprive myself, I just became the kind of person that didn’t snack in the afternoon. And that in turn, meant I consumed less sugar.
Getting off the couch
Here’s another example.
Let’s say you’ve been relatively inactive for many years and you have a goal of losing 40 pounds.
Where do you start?
Start by forgetting about the pounds.
Ask yourself, what kind of person loses 40 pounds and wants to get in better shape?
A simple answer – an active person.
Not a person that goes from years on the couch into P90x. That’s a recipe for failure.
So you need to be the kind of person that is active everyday. What does that mean? Start with a 20 minute walk everyday. Maybe you buy a Fitbit or use an app to track your steps. Just find a way to move more – everyday.
A small win, yes, but it’s profound.
Be the kind of person that fits in a 20-minute walk – rain or shine. Nothing will get in your way.
(Note: Try Nathan Barry’s Commit app. It will remind you everyday to complete your desired task. It also maintains a tally of how many consecutive days you’ve done.)
As I mentioned earlier, this concept obviously works better with new behaviors.
If you already run consistently and have a goal of running a marathon, you’ve already developed the habit of running….you just need to shift your training approach to cover 26 miles.
Tackle the identity of the person you want to be first. Become that person and let your goals take care of themselves.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!