Building new habits without New Year's resolutions

Often as part of coaching conversations, people talk about goals and intentions and in particular, setting goals and changing habits. And, making change stick, often involves a similar conversation. It’s really made me think about this whole subject and how I’m tackling it. It’s almost the end of February, so why am I talking about this now when New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory?

Photo: BreakingPic, Pexel

Photo: BreakingPic, Pexel

I spent quite a bit of time in January thinking about my goals for this year, what I wanted to achieve and so the habits I needed to either start or break to create change for myself. I didn’t want to be in the nearly 90% of people who break their New Years’ resolutions, so I deliberately spent my time considering my intentions for this year and how I’m going to achieve them, rather than setting resolutions - which hasn’t been at all successful for me in the past.

I spent a few weeks ahead of this researching how to flex my habit muscle – reading James Clears’ Atomic Habits and revisiting Charles Duhigg, the Power of Habit. So, what did I learn?

  • Sharing really matters, as I’m apparently more likely to deliver. So, I’m sharing here

  • Writing goals down and having a plan, helps. See above

  • I’ve tried to break my goals down into manageable tasks, with time-based steps . ‘Getting fitter’ breaks down into lots of smaller tasks like ‘joining the gym’, ‘getting up earlier three times a week to walk’. If it’s too big without the breakdown, it won’t work for me. There’s a lot to be said for marginal gains where the small things apparently make the difference. Nothing new here from all the learning I’ve had about SMART goals in the past, but this time, I really focused on the breakdown, setting time aside and sticking to it.

  • Remembering it takes time to shape a new habit. According to research shared by James Clear it can take anything from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit – and the average is 66 days.

  • I deliberately didn’t set my goals around New Year’s Eve, as I usually do with resolutions. I spent time thinking about them at the end of 2018 (in the same way I used to about my in-house, year-end review) and revisited them during January. Then I thought about the habits I’ll need to help it all work.

So, what are the habits I’ve started that I think are going to bring the change I’m after?

1. Spending more time with my tribe – I love hanging out with other like-minded people to share and build new ideas and have fun in the process. Collaboration wins. This year, I’ve already started spending more time with the Indigo Talent Development Co-operative and change, comms and coaching colleagues like Trudy Lewis and Becky Hall plus the lovely Valuable Content team and others too numerous to mention. The only rule is that we get coffee and ideally, cake.

2. Practicing what I preach – I’m a big fan of people looking after themselves through improving their wellbeing (I include this in my consulting and coaching work) and I’ve set my own intentions to improve this for myself in 2019. For me, that means sticking to a regular time for consistently being outdoors and staying healthy. Not rocket science but not always as easy as I think. I’ve started posting pics of my outdoor trips on Instagram or Twitter to keep myself on track – see sharing goals, above. It’s helping.

To get motivated I’ve been re-reading: ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’ by Dr Rangan Chatterjee and listening to a selection from his podcasts; Matthew Walker’s ‘Why we Sleep’ as well as Daniel Golman’s ‘Focus’ . It's helping.

3. Using more technology to save time and support my new habits – I’ve been working with the lovely Louise Lee at Saunders and Lee who has introduced me to a wealth of new efficiency tools as well as making Asana work for me. This has created more time already and I haven’t even got my head round all of them.

4. Being braver - I was lucky to be invited to be part of the panel at the AB Thinks Live event in December 2018 which has really made me think again and again about courage and bravery. As I mentioned to the audience, my fridge magnet with the question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” makes me think about this regularly. Getting into the habit of asking myself this more often and how it can help me and my clients, is one of my big habit changers for this year.

5. Thinking more – in an effort to find space to think more, I’ve been trying to follow the words of Mad Men’s Don Draper, “Think about it really hard, then forget about it”. More on this soon.

6. Being kinder and more compassionate – talking and listening to people more, being less critical – to others and myself - and try to remember that everyone has their own issues or struggles to deal with.

That’s a lot already underway for 2019, so I’ll see how it goes and let you know. Let me know your tips that have helped you get into new habits to support change - I’d love to hear.