It’s January and time to think about what you want for the year ahead. What resolutions do you want to make? Maybe this year you want to lose weight (a popular one), get fit, spend more time with your family, change jobs, learn a new skill, or tick off the next big challenge on your bucketlist?
So you start off with great enthusiasm. You hit the gym, buy the new diet book, get on the scales or register for the new class, but often by the end of January find you have run out of steam and are back at square one.
Why is this such a common experience? The word ‘resolution’ in the dictionary means to determine, to decide, to resolve, and I believe what we call resolutions are more often like wishes. We want something for sure, but we haven’t made a firm resolve, thought it through, or taken it seriously enough to make a detailed plan. We hope just wanting it will be enough and it usually isn’t!
What we underestimate is that change takes effort. Because our brains view any kind of change as a potential threat, they try to protect us by favouring the familiar. Holding onto old habits and routines also saves you a lot of energy. Remember the last time you started a new job and you went home exhausted at the end of the first day, even though all you did all day was try to learn people’s names?
Making a change means you have to get assertive with your old brain wiring. You need a clear vision to start with and a good plan to guide you. Then you need to take single minded action long enough for the new habits and thoughts to become your new normal.
In an interesting article on Psyblog http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php about how long it takes to establish a habit, a study in UK found it took on average 66 days, not 21 as is often believed.