We Are Creatures of Habit, Not Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are a joke.

I mean, do you know anyone who’s ever stuck to theirs past the first few weeks of January?

The problem, as you may have noticed, is that people come up with their grandiose resolutions without thinking through how they’ll actually have to adapt their behavior to get there (and maybe examining why it didn’t happen the last five years they had the exact same resolution!).

I suggest doing it backwards.

As creatures of habit, over 90% of our behaviors are habitual – why not take advantage? Instead of dramatically overhauling my daily routine for a few weeks before flopping back into my old ways, I ask myself: what would I be doing on a regular basis if I had already achieved my goal?

In other words, what habits would I have if I were already the person I want to become?

Starting a new habit is a low-key — fun, even — way to stir up change and get out of a rut. It doesn’t take much to spice up your routine. And each time you follow through, it reinforces the habit and makes it easier to do than not do.

What’s more, success in creating a new habit also allows you to take advantage of a virtuous cycle, where results in one area motivate you in another (wanting to eat more healthily after you’ve made it to the gym, for example). Leo Babauta is the poster child for life transformation through new habits.

Here are the habits I’m focusing on in 2012 (no drum roll, please ;-):

  1. Read one (auto)biography per month. I’ve been reading about mental toughness and peak performance from a neuroscience and psychology perspective. Now it’s time to learn from some real-life examples. First on the list: The Long Run, by Matt Long, a New York firefighter who was run over by a 20-ton bus and made an incredible comeback to run the New York Marathon and an Ironman race. Got recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
  2. Go to one yoga and/or Pilates class per week. For the longest time, my goal was to try Bikram yoga. Too extreme, too hot – and, therefore, didn’t happen. This, however, is inspiring.
  3. Post videos (at least two per month) on my blog and YouTube channel. No more hiding behind my computer screen. I’ll be posting tips on high-performance, mental toughness and the occasional piano run-through (see #5 below).
  4. Integrate intermittent (daily) fasting. I’ve recently been learning more about the benefits of fasting for overall health and weight management, and my fitness colleague, Daniel Pachter, swears by it (with the six-pack abs to prove it). John Berardi wrote in candid detail about his self-experiment here.
  5. Practice at least one hour a day. In 2011, I often went weeks without touching the piano, except to dust it. (I’m dreading the scolding I’m going to get from my piano tuner when I finally call him.) But I’m entering a piano competition in May, so no more excuses.
  6. Fifty push-ups a day. Time to dust off the Perfect Push-ups too.
  7. Read novels in French. Thanks to Audible and iTunes, I can order both the audio and hard-copy versions of a book and read along while I listen – the perfect combination of aural and visual learning.

By incorporating these habits (most of which are extensions of what I’m already doing), I will be fitter, leaner, limber-er, more comfortable in front of the camera and at the keyboard, and closer to being tri-lingual. All without a single resolution!

Your turn! What habits will get you where you want to be?

4 thoughts on “We Are Creatures of Habit, Not Resolutions

  1. I have always enjoyed your work via the blosphere thank you. I love the idea of habits and will work on some of my own. This year I took a note from Chris Brogan and creating 3 words for 2012. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/3words2012/ However the words will need some habits backing them up to really be effective. One more piece of the puzzle for this year falls into place!
    Thank you

    With regards to autobiographies you might like to try Seven Pillars of Wisdom the account of T.E. Lawrence’s time in Arabia. http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Pillars-Wisdom-T-Lawrence/dp/0385418957

    PS if you want to practice Japanese in person you can find me in Osaka, Japan. Skype is omondfamily anytime your welcome to practice.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Malcolm, and the TE Lawrence recommendation. I love the photos of everyday Japan on your posterous site and plan to get back there this year.

  2. I completely agree – the reason most people (read: me) fail to accomplish new year resolution is because we (I) fail to specify which steps would be taken to achieve the goal. You have to be specific about the steps, specific about the obstacles and also about the steps you would take to pass those obstacles.
    I like the goals you set up – I will have something similar. Make sure you set up checkpoints during the year to see how you are doing!

    1. Thanks, Sohaib! Being specific is the key. I have a weekly checklist for tracking my habits — a very visual way of seeing whether I’m doing them or not. Would be curious to hear what habits you need to put into place to reach your goals.

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