We often make new year’s resolutions to counteract the indulgences and lapses of the holiday season. But, these commitments tend to be fleeting and don’t usually lead to lasting behavior change. Good intentions won’t matter unless we have a plan to implement them effectively.
To make sure that I practice what I preach, at the start of this year, I made a resolution and kept it. Those of you who were with me then might remember that I committed to writing you a monthly note. Here are some of the ways I made this work:
Set a realistic goal – Even if you have a bigger objective in mind, break it down into smaller, more attainable action items. For me, the goal of writing a monthly missive felt manageable. When life got in my way, even this simple task was surprisingly difficult to get done. Those months, you got your notes close to midnight on the night of my self-imposed deadline, but you got them nonetheless. Keeping your goal modest will help you meet it. For example, if you want to eat healthier, commit to eating a half an avocado (super healthy and satiating) to your menu regularly, rather than trying to overhaul your diet completely.
Create reminders – Routine is the enemy of behavior change. We are usually in auto-pilot mode and forget our good intentions, regardless of how easy the action step may be. My favorite prompting strategy is the reminder feature on my cell phone. Each month flew by, but my phone prodded me about a week ahead to gather my thoughts in preparation for sharing with you. What reminder systems work best for you? Maybe putting a bright post-it note on your steering wheel will remind you to stay connected by calling a friend during your commute home from work.
Find an accountability partner – Declare your intention to someone else and ask to check-in about it regularly. This positive peer pressure can help you stick with your new behavior. Last January, I declared to you my resolution to write monthly, and this motivated me to follow through. Similarly, my exercise consistency is due largely to the fact that I work out with my friend, Susan. We show up for each other and get the otherwise boring task of working out done together. Think about the people in your life and pick someone who will encourage and support you in meeting your goal.
With these strategies, you can turn your good intentions into new lasting habits.