“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” Epictetus
Half of the adults in the US will make one or more New Year’s resolutions. A quarter of those people will not stick with them past the first week. Less than half of them will still be maintaining their new resolve by June. Why? Why is it so hard to change?
Change is inherently difficult because it requires us to put energy into the system. When our energy levels run low, or are redirected to emergencies, we default to the old way—the way that requires less energy. However, if we can maintain the new way long enough, it will become the path of less resistance and therefore the default.
There are probably as many reasons people fail to stick with their resolutions as there are people, but there are some things that can help any of us begin to demand the best of ourselves.
You have heard the children’s joke, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” Often our plans to transform ourselves are as big as an elephant, yet we have no plan on how to eat it. In his book, “Atomic Habits”, James Clear talks about small habits that make an enormous difference in your life. He tells about how the British cycling team managed a complete turnaround by focusing on a 1% improvement in every area. Really small changes that accumulate and add up in a big way. If your goal for 2019 is to read more, don’t make your resolution to read a certain number of books, instead, make a resolution to read a page a day.
Not the Olivia Newton John kind (now you have that song in your head…) Create a physical reminder or prepare the necessary supplies for your new habit so it is harder to ignore or avoid. Recovering addicts often carry a coin in their pocket they received for a certain amount of time in sobriety. When things get tough, they can reach in their pocket and feel that coin and remember how far they have come. IF you want to run every morning, put your running shoes and clothes out next to your bed so you have to literally step over them when you get up. When you bump into your new habit in the course of your day it is easier to remember and stick with it.
Keep It Simple
There’s a famous quote by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that says “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.” The more complex something is, the harder it is to maintain. Brushing your teeth is simple. A brush and paste and standing in front of the sink is all that is necessary. If you had to spend 30 minutes preparing the necessary equipment to brush your teeth, you would be much less likely to get it done. While some changes we need to make require more complex adjustments to our routines, the easier it is to do the new thing, the more likely we will be to do it. It is not just the individual things in our lives that are sometimes complex, it is often our lives that have become to complicated we can no longer maintain them. One way to simplify change is to trade a new, better habit for an old unneeded one. Uncluttering can be a powerful tool for making room in our lives for positive change.
Think and Pray
Are your goals for this year based on what God’s purpose is in your life? How might you tackle them in “bite-sized chunks” and remove any obstacles or complexity that would keep you from achieving them? Who might you invite to help you maintain focus and accomplish each milestone?
Lord, I first ask that You would show me what I should be focusing my energies on. Give me wisdom for how to move forward, and the strength that I’ll need to persevere. My desire is that you would be glorified by everything I set my hand to. Amen.
© 2018. Reprinted with permission. Thomas Hill III is CEO of Kimray, Inc. in Oklahoma City. He is the author of Recovering Leadership: Musings of an Addict Leader and posts regularly on his blog www.recoveringleadership.com.