Those of you following my newsletter know that I’ve embarking on a journey this year to achieve a few goals. Not resolutions, but concrete, measurable goals. Many of you’ve joined me. So far, we’ve set goals and crafted them for maximum effectiveness using the SMART goal strategy.
Sometimes, resolutions or SMART goals involve creating new habits. You’ve probably heard the adage it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Unfortunately, it is rarely that simple. New habits can take much, much longer to develop. A quick Google search will guide you to interesting and more accurate information. (Suffice to say establishing a new habit requires dedication, persistence (including a promise to yourself to never give up), and an overarching desire to win. Did I mention persistence?
Other goals involve eliminating longstanding habits. Here is something to think about: It is far easier to get rid of a bad or maladaptive habit when you find something to replace it. For instance, one of my 2019 goals is to eat less and better-for-me food. I can replace bad-for-me food with foods that are better—easy. Sort of. But if I want to eat less, what can I do with the desire to eat more? I replace the habit of snacking with behaviors that are incompatible with snacking. For example, crocheting. I can’t eat and crochet at the same time. I also can’t brush my teeth and snack.
(You know what I mean. Doesn’t everyone like the feeling of freshly brushed teeth?)
At times, it is also important to think about WHY you engage in the not-good-for-you behavior. For example, let’s say you want desperately to stop picking your fingernails. It’s more than a habit; you understand you do this when you’re anxious. With this knowledge, you can find other things to do when you’re nervous, things designed to soothe you. Drinking a cup of tea? Deep breathing exercises? Calling your BFF? One of these options would always be available to you. When you finally make the commitment to stop picking your fingernails, you’ll have these other tools at your disposal.
The point is, when you are trying to stop doing something, you have to replace it with something else. In fact, start doing the new, positive thing BEFORE you tackle stopping the old thing.
Make sense? What habits do you want to change?