Your best new year’s resolution: Pick up a new habit

Here’s a proven way to accomplish what you want in the coming year: develop a couple critical habits.

Don’t invest too much time or energy in goals. Goals can be useful but they are not the critical difference. The key to accomplishing something is not what you intend to do but what you do. And since you cannot do your goal in one big step, the little things you do every day or every week will determine whether you ultimately achieve what you set out to accomplish.

In his new book Atomic Habits, James Clear has given us a brilliant strategy for developing productive new habits and breaking unproductive old habits just in time for setting our New Year’s resolutions.

He points out that, while most Olympic champions, for example, report that their medal began with a goal, there were thousands of people who set the same goal and never made the competition. Goals can be useful. They give us direction. But achievement is based on the little things performed consistently over a long period of time. Accomplishment comes from habits.

Clear lays out four laws of habits. Here is a sampling of how you can successfully adopt some new habits of your own and accomplish your goals in the new year.

The first law – make it obvious

Making a habit totally clear and associating it with something in your environment or something you do facilitates adoption. One of the strategies Clear recommends is to use an implementation intention. Write down a commitment to perform the new behavior at a particular time and place. Can you choose something to do when you first arrive at your office? How about a little ritual right after a client leaves the office? Or you might pick a consistent time each day. One example he uses is “I will meditate for one minute at 7 AM in my kitchen.”

The second law – make it attractive

Habits come more easily when they are enjoyable. How can you make the new activity attractive? One strategy Clear recommends is to join a culture where the habit you want to adopt is the norm. Some people find it easier to accomplish their fitness goals when they join a gym or yoga studio and find a group of people they enjoy seeing who already have the habit of working out.

The third law – make it easy

Doing something outside the norm is an obstacle. The less effort involved, the more likely a new behavior can become a habit. One great strategy Clear recommends is the two-minute rule. Downscale the new habit until it can be done in two minutes or less.

The fourth law – make it satisfying

It is amazing how hard people will work to win a game even if there is no external prize. I meditate every morning. I have an app that guides and times those meditations. It keeps track of how many days in a row I have meditated and the length of my longest streak. At the moment they are the same, 112 days. I want to be consistent about meditation because I believe it’s good for me. But it’s crazy how obsessive I get about not missing a single day because I want that longest streak to continue. “Don’t break the chain,” Clear says, is a powerful mantra. On some level that’s kind of silly. Still, there is no denying it helps keep me consistent. Weight trainers record their reps. Jerry Seinfeld reportedly tracks his streak of consistently writing jokes every day. What can you track?

Whatever you want to accomplish in the coming year, the right habits are the only consistent way of getting there. What new habit will get you closest to that goal?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top