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Resolution or Resolve


Let's face it, keeping New Year's resolutions is hard. Many of us plan on fulfilling a resolution only to fall short, then feel frustrated and defeated. We tell ourselves that the resolution was too hard, that we had unrealistic expectations, or we just didn't have time to complete the resolution. It may have been our flawed approach, not the resolution.

Jim Ryun, former politician and Olympic track and field athlete stated, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” In other words, the resolution was simply a motivating statement. A habit is required to "keep" the resolution. I once read that it takes 31 days to create a habit. Thirty-one days is not a long time, but it is long enough to create muscle memory (2-4 weeks).

Some researchers say it may take longer. Phillippa Lally, a researcher at University College London, performed a study published in 2009. The study reported that it took an average of 66 days for a person to develop a new habit. The actual time varied widely depending on the behavior and the person. The study showed it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days for the participants to form a new action. The study also demonstrated that missing, or not performing the new act for a day, did not affect one's ability to establish the new behavior. In other words, habits are not an all or nothing deal.

The old saying, "get right back on the horse", definitely applies here. The saying is derived from an adage that references getting back on the horse that threw you or bucked you off. If we fail, it is important to resume the activity as soon as possible if we want to alter our behavior and create new habits. We don't have to give up if we miss a day of running, or eat an extra snack, we simply have to get back on the horse that threw us.

How do we make new habits stick? Search the Internet and you will find a multitude of answers to this question. There are a few techniques that appear in almost every search result. Experts and laypeople alike seem to agree that these methods can help you on your journey to establishing a new habit.

Tie your new habit to an established one. If you want to drink more water each day, tell yourself that after each meal you will drink a glass of water. Eating is a habit that probably isn't going anywhere, so this creates a daily reminder to drink extra water. If you want to run for 15 minutes each day, you may want to set a reminder by deciding to run immediately after you brush your teeth in the morning.

Focus your habits on your goals, not the behavior itself. Create a new habit that results in you becoming more like the person you want to be. Telling yourself I want to eat less fatty foods is great, but establishing a goal to be a healthier person in one year, then committing to the behavior that will get you there is even better.

Use the buddy system. Find a partner that has the same basic goal as you do. You can motivate each other to stay on track, and it is more difficult to "miss a day" if someone else is counting on you. Remember it can be difficult to build new habits. Have a plan just in case your partner bails on you so you can continue on your own.

Be consistent. Commit to performing the new activity daily if possible.  If you want to learn a new language, try studying at the same time and place each day. This makes it easier to stick to the new habit.

 Don't bite off more than you can chew or KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). If you want to change your eating habits don't try a wholesale reform overnight. Try eliminating snacks for a few weeks. Once you are successful, change a meal each day, then two. We are much more likely to be successful if we have small victories along the way that we can celebrate.

Don't try to be perfect. If you fall off the horse, dust yourself off and climb right back on. Missing a daily run is not the end of the world as long as we recover and re-establish the new behavior. We all fail, it is our response to failure that determines the results.

Do it for You! We have all made changes to please other people, this seldom works out. However, changing our behavior or actions because we want to is much more likely to be successful.

Prepare for the difficulty and success of your new actions. Unrealistic expectations can promote an atmosphere of failure when a little foresight and planning could have prepared you for the struggle.

New Years Resolutions are difficult to keep, but forming a new habit does not have to be. Luis A. Flores  once said, “There simply is no stronger resolve than that of the inspired human spirit.” Follow these tips and the changes you want to make are within reach.

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