This article originally published on Feb. 26, 2016
Every year, we set goals for ourselves, often called resolutions. What we actually envision is a brighter future, brought about by the desired change in our daily routine or habits. You may want to lose weight, increase your client base or stop smoking. This means you have to alter an existing behavior and insert a new one in its place.
Change is always difficult, but it can be done, with a little bit of willpower. Try these simple steps to get you on track to better habits.
1. Decide what is important and why.
What is your motivation for wanting to develop a new habit? Will it improve your life? Envision the outcome if you don’t make the change. Then decide how you are going to make the change. If you want more clients, make more contacts; if you want to get more done in the day, get up an hour earlier; if you want to be healthier, instill an exercise regimen into the daily routine. Set a goal and then give yourself a timeline to complete it.
2. Make the habit reasonable.
If a new habit is too difficult to maintain, mostly likely it will fall by the wayside. Choose a realistic new habit that you desire and know you can accomplish. Start small, like cutting back on the number of cups of coffee you drink each day, or making one lunch date a week with a potential referral source.
3. Choose one habit at a time.
Trying to change several habits at once is too much for anyone. Instead, concentrate on one behavioral change until it becomes routine, then add a second one. If you’re overwhelmed by too many changes, you most likely won’t accomplish any of them.
4. Give yourself time.
It takes time to change a habit. According to a study by University College London health psychology professor Phillippa Lally, it takes more than two months, or 66 days, for a new habit to take hold.
5. Don’t expect perfection.
You’re bound to slip up one or more times as you work your way towards your new behavior. Be patient with yourself and accept the slip. Then recommit to the new habit.
6. Engage others.
Being held accountable for a new behavior is a solid way to reinforce the behavior. Tell others what you’re trying to do, and let them help if they offer. Don’t get angry if they remind you of your goal now and again. This may be just what you need to stay on track. You may even motivate them to make some goals too.
7. Be consistent.
Consistency is the key to establishing a new habit. Do the same thing day after day to set it firmly in your mind and routine. If possible, set a schedule for the new behavior, and stick to it. Be accountable, either by tracking the new habit on a chart or interfacing with others.
8. Replace a bad habit with a good one.
To ditch a bad habit, try replacing it with a better one. If your desk features a candy jar, replace the contents with healthy snacks, like nuts. Or if you like to stay up late watching TV, read in bed instead.
9. Build in a reward.
Set a standard of behavior and offer yourself a reward at the end of 30 or 60 days. But make sure the reward does not include the old behavior. For example, don’t celebrate with a big meal if your new habit it eating less at lunchtime.
Stick with your goal and you’ll accomplish the changes you desire. In the words of American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”