As my hair stylist turned my chair around to check out the back of my new cut and color, I had a crushing realization that made me infinitely happy.
I had managed to keep my New Year’s resolution for a whole year.
This realization was pretty exciting, because I am fairly certain I had never kept one for a whole year before. I got pretty excited because I realized that yet again, my habit practices were making inroads in all aspects of my life. In this article, I’ll explain my resolution and show you how you can set up a New Year’s resolution you can keep for a whole year (or more) too!
My New Year’s was to be consistent with my hair and eyebrow maintenance. If you don’t plan and schedule your hair appointments you know EXACTLY the process I had been going through.
My old “drastic measures” process
- Hair starts to have roots show through and the eyebrows need some cleanup. Old me: Plucks eyebrows, thinks about making a hair appointment.
- The following week: Hair is starting to look worse, and eyebrows are getting kind of long. Old me: Considers cutting eyebrows, decides against, plucks some more, thinks about making a hair appointment.
- The week after that: Panic sets in. Hair looks BAD. Eyebrows look like caterpillars growing together. Old me: Makes hair appointment but can’t get in for two weeks. Goes to local pharmacy, buys hair color that sort of matches, applies to roots. Wears hair pulled back or hat for the next two weeks.
The whole frustration/panic/do something drastic cycle wasn’t working for me anymore. And it’s not unusual to find ourselves in the very same situation with food or exercise, right? This reaction cycle is often a damaging and demotivating factor in your efforts to get healthy.
Does this sound like you?
- You become frustrated or ready for a change with your eating habits, and put it on your “to-do” list. You may even make a half-hearted attempt to improve it.
- You think “Ah, I will wait until after XX to start working on eating better.”
- After XX event, you think “Wow, it’s really time to buckle down. Now I am going to do something about this.” You make another attempt at eating better that is fairly short-lived.
- After your attempt ends, you find yourself in the same position or worse. You panic, and immediately do something drastic with your food or exercise which wears out your willpower and motivation quickly and leaves you frustrated and back at square one.
Stop doing this. Do this instead.
Let’s take a look at how I did my New Year’s resolution for a whole year using a simple habit loop. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, helping a new habit “stick” requires the creation of a habit loop, the neurological basis for why we do most of what we do. Habits are fantastic tools for weight loss and getting in shape because they help us make good eating and exercise changes “stick” without depleting our willpower and motivation to get there.
A habit loop requires 3 steps in order to get hard wired into the brain. These are the cue, the routine, and the reward.
The cue is the setup, something that you do every day or every time a particular situation occurs. Common daily cues could be brushing your teeth or drinking your coffee. For me, the cue was easy because it was already built into the haircut appointment. When I paid, the receptionist would say, “Would you like to book your appointment for next time?” I used to always say no. NOW, I always say YES.
The routine will be the thing that the cue reminds you to do. For my hair appointment example, I look through my calendar 6 weeks out and schedule my appointment. The receptionist calls with a reminder 4 days out, and I show up at my time.
The reward is the benefit that you get from doing the routine. This might come immediately (better) or over time (also helpful). For me, I have lived without “hair panic” for a year now. I haven’t bought a box of color in a frenzy at the grocery store. I haven’t attacked my eyebrows with tweezers and nail scissors. I spend less money over time because my regular appointments mean I can do just touch ups on every other appointment.
Yours sounded pretty easy, but how does that help me?
The key is that making changes should be EASY. If it’s easy, you’re going to continue to do it. If it isn’t easy, it’s that will make it harder to maintain over the long term. Sure, I had a super easy cue to remind me to do my routine, but setting those up in your daily life can be done. When you choose your new habit, make sure that t’s really manageable- like you are 95% CERTAIN you can do it.
Your routines for eating and exercise need to be executed on a daily basis. You need a single focus for what change you want to make and then you need to set up your daily cue and routine. I mentioned a couple of examples of things happen daily that would make it easier to remember to do the new routine. For example, packing a healthy lunch after you have had your coffee.
It’s helpful to have support, accountability, and honest self-assessment on your habit changes. In my coaching groups, I build in this exercise daily so that people can see what their progress was over time and reflect on changes they need to make to improve their success with it.
AVOID THESE DOWNFALLS OF HABIT CHANGE:
- Making the habit too hard. If you don’t eat any veggies, you are not very likely to start eating them 3 meals a day. Be 95-100% confident you can nail your new habit.
- Trying to “focus” on more than one habit at a time. Choose ONE thing to focus on at a time. Yes, of course you are capable of doing other things while you focus on one thing at time. But measuring your progress on that one thing should be the focus.
- Going it alone. You need support for the journey. Support and accountability provide insight and motivation for most people. Studies show you persist longer when others are working with you.
In my free Facebook community, we talk about how to make habits that stick and tips for how to persist at weight loss, exercise, or any healthy habit.