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Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Resolutions - Break and Build Habits

This topic had to be the first because you will need the tips here to accomplish most, if not all, resolutions you may make.  Whether you're trying to break a bad habit or acquire a new one, the rules are basically the same.  Effort, especially while you are making a lasting change, is the primary requirement, as well as a commitment to building or breaking a habit.

Use these tips to self improvement through making and breaking habits:

1.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  That might sound a little negative coming as the first suggestion, but you won't be perfect all the time and you need to be ready for that.  Write down your goal - be specific about the habit you are trying to make or break.  When the goal is not specific, there is a tendency to water it down, or add more to the original goal.  You can't win a game if you change the rules in the middle. Finally, have a plan for what happens during a setback. 

2.  Focus on one habit at a time.  Don't try to diet and quit smoking at the same time.  There is actually scientific evidence to show that the human brain only has enough will power to attack one habit at a time. 

3.  Give yourself at least 30 days.  Set a firm date to begin and commit to the entire 30 days.  Set that 30th day as a milestone and not just a vague aspiration.  It takes about 3 weeks for most people to adopt or break a habit.  If you have other behaviors, people or situations that are associated with your bad habit or stand in the way of your new habit, make an effort to avoid them during the time you are trying to make or break a habit.  It might not be realistic to change your commute route permanently, but if it helps break the Starbucks or McDonalds habit, do it for 30 days and give yourself a chance.

4.  Be accountable.  If you keep a record of your progress, it can keep you focused.  Better yet, find an accountability partner who will keep you honest on your progress.  That person will encourage you whether you are progressing or not.  It also makes you more likely to persevere through the 30 days.

5.  Reward yourself.  Sometimes the new habit is a reward in itself, but when your efforts pay off, give yourself something special that you would not otherwise have.  It's a great motivation to start/break another habit!

Regardless of the resolution you make, if it includes a new practice or activity you don't already do, plan on following these steps to a positive change.  Good luck!