Lifestyle | Middle Aged Musings

Ditch the New Year’s resolutions …

CREATE good habits instead

Has there ever been a new year more anticipated than 2021??   I suspect not.

It’s easy to consider that 2021 will be a much better year than 2020, but just like at any time, I firmly believe that planning, purpose and direction will help ensure your year is as good as it can be.  

As the New Year hits, one of the most searched and talked about topics is resolutions.  For many the new year is a chance to reflect on the past, and think about making positive changes for the year ahead with New Year’s resolutions.

Sadly, these resolutions rarely last, and by February the only memory of them is a little lingering guilt.

But there is a way to succeed in making positive changes in your life.

It’s time to ditch the New Year’s resolutions, and create good habits instead.

Resolutions are often confused with goal setting, and before we discuss this any further, I’d think we need to clear up any confusion between the two.

A goal provides DIRECTION towards a certain outcome.  To achieve it, certain ACTIONS need to happen.  

A RESOLUTION is a decision to do or not to do something.  

Goals can and should be set at any time in life, but resolutions – that seems to be the cornerstone of a New Year.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking lately, as I plan my vision for my 2021.  Are you a planner also?  Do you set goals for yourself?  It really is an important thing for me, to have some kind of path to follow.  I like to know I’m living life with intention.  I value knowing there’s purpose in everything I do.  (OK, that’s probably not true, there’s definitely not purpose in everything I do!)  But I do like to think that if I have an overarching plan, that some of my daily activities are actions towards achieving it.

Even for those of us who are planners, there are SO many ways of actually planning.  Think vision boards, SMART goals, digital planning tools, one little words, and planner books to name just a few.  And some of us will use a variety of these to ensure our plan remains front and foremost as we live 2021.

I’ve decided this year to embrace the idea of ‘one little word’, and my word for 2021 is HABITS. I decided on this word, as I’ve done a lot of reading and listening lately, that all speaks to the power of small things, done consistently.   That’s got to be a habit right?

A habit is defined as “a way of behaving that is repeated so often it no longer involves conscious thought”.  (from encyclopedia.com)

Think about what you do when you first get up in the morning.  That auto-pilot routine that gets you ready for the day.  How many habits are part of that routine?  Do you get out of bed to an alarm?  Do you hit the snooze button?  Do you jump in the shower, or turn on the coffee pot first?    It certainly makes you think about the habits that get you through your day. 

Ditch the New Year's resolutions, create good habits instead

We all have our own habits, some of which are great, and others …. let’s just say, less so.

It would be interesting to grab a piece of paper, and write a list of your habits, and then categorise them as good, bad or neutral.  I think that’d be a little eye opener!  Who’s willing to try??

BUT, in the meantime, I’m thinking about making positive changes in my life in 2021.   I’m going to take the experts’ advice, and implement small changes, that I do consistently.  These changes are going to be habits, or actions, towards the goals I set.

Years ago when I did some research on goal setting, the information I read then about habits, suggested that it took doing something 21 days in a row, for it to become habitual. 

As I set my goals for this year, I considered this as I considered my habits.  If the 21 day rule is indeed true, then I should be able to introduce 12 new, small, and positive habits into my life in 2021. Which nicely equates to one new habit a month. (I like it when things fit perfectly like that.)

Let’s look at how this needs to happen to make it work.

Habits vs Resolutions

Here are some common New Years’ Resolutions;

– I want to lose weight

– I’m going to eat healthier

– I’m going to have more balance in my life

These are all very admirable resolutions, but they are doomed to fail.  Why?

There is no follow through and accountability with any of these.  Let’s take “I want to lose weight”.  My first question would be how are you planning on doing that?  Without a plan, how would this happen?  My second question would then be how much weight do you want to lose?  If you don’t know how much, is 1lb enough to have achieved your resolution?  And if you lose it in January, and then put that 1lb on in February, did you still achieve your resolution?  

Can you see that without being very specific, it’s difficult to know really what it is you’re trying to achieve, and when you may have achieved it.

What new habits should you create?

If you’re looking to form new habits, you need to first remember the mantra, that it’s small things done consistently, that are the most powerful.

Your habits should be NEW and POSITIVE action steps towards achieving a goal.   So yes, you need to sit down and do some goal setting before you start thinking about creating new habits.

But once you’ve done your goal setting, you’re ready to go.

Rather than stopping a habit, it’s considered important that you either look at changing it, or rather replace it with something new and positive.    And who doesn’t like new and shiny?

Let’s just say I have a bad habit of snacking on sweet things after dinner while sitting in front of the tv (hypthotically speaking ..)

Rather than saying I’m going to stop this, I instead need to reframe it positively.

So, my new habit will be that I stop eating after 8pm.  I can eat whatever I like after dinner, as long as it’s before 8pm. To help with that, I’m also going to brush my teeth at 8pm, because I certainly don’t eat anything after I have clean teeth.

This way I’m not stopping myself from indulging, but I am creating what I hope will be a healthier habit, that will naturally limit the amount of sweet food I eat each night.

8 steps to create a new habit

  1. Know your why.  Why do you want to create this habit?  It should be an action towards achieving a larger goal.
  2. Start small.  Don’t make your new habit so big that it’s too hard.  As above, I’m still allowing myself my sweet treats, I’m just giving myself a cut off time.
  3. Only implement one new habit at a time.  (I’m going for one a month, so 12 new habits over 2021)
  4. Don’t try and stop a bad habit, instead create a new good one.
  5. Keep your habit positive 
  6. Connect it to another habit, ie. after I brush my teeth, I’ll do xyz
  7. Don’t berate yourself if you miss a day, just start again tomorrow
  8. Celebrate your habit each time you do it.  Give yourself a little hurrah, pat yourself on the back, tick it off your to do list – whatever works for you to help you know you’ve achieved it.

As I researched this post, a lot of people made reference to a book by James Clear, called Atomic Habits.  With so many people recommending it, it’s got to be a good read.  I’ve just ordered it, so look forward to any extra tips and tricks he may offer.

And, as an avid Ruth Soukup fan, Ruth recommends The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Looks like I need to head back to Amazon 🙂

I hope I’ve convinced you to ditch the New Year’s Resolutions, and instead work on creating good new habits that work you slowly but surely towards your goals. I know slow and steady doesn’t seem very exciting, but it is the surest way to achieve long lasting success from your actions.

What’s going to be your first new habit?

Share below, then I can cheer you on with it. Plus, writing it down is another step towards being held accountable.

And, if you’d like to hear more on what my 12 new habits for 2021 are, make sure you sign up to my newsletter, because I’m only sharing them there. (Some of the habits I want to create may be a little personal or slightly embarrasing to admit in public …)

I’m cheering for you and your success in 2021.  

Before you head away, remember caring is sharing.  Please pin an image below, and/or feel free to share with a friend who also wants success in 2021.

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9 Comments

  1. Great article. Goals without a plan are wishes. 😄

  2. Thanks for the article, its given me alot to think about 😊

  3. These are some great tips! I’ve got a list of 3 or 4 good habits I want to implement this year! I have a couple of resolutions too, so we’ll see if they last as long as my good habits! Thanks for the great guide!

  4. I like your way of thinking about it. I have to admit, I don’t normally make traditional resolutions. I normally make a few goals (particular mountains I’d like to climb…or the number of hikes I hope to do in the year.) Starting good habits and making plans is also a great way to go.

  5. I love this, this is such great advice and much more sustainable and realistic than the typical new years resolutions!

  6. Francesca says:

    I love the steps you outlined to create a new habit. I feel like knowing your why is important because without that you will have no motivation.

  7. Bronwyn Yelverton says:

    Great blog thanks Megan. My new habit for this month is to improve my sleep by reducing the number of days I go to the gym early in the morning as it’s become such a habit, it’s no longer a good habit as my sleep suffers, as does how I feel and function! It will also reduce my petrol and travel time two days a week!

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