There is truth to the running joke that New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. Research has found that most people that make a resolution won’t keep it. A lot of factors contribute to the failing of our best intentions, but we can look to the science of habit formation to understand perhaps the crucial variable: the difficulty of changing behavior.
Our habits, good and bad, are likely the results of years and years of reinforcement. To say that you will abruptly workout four days a week and eat perfectly nutritious meals after what could be decades of sedentary activity and poor eating habits is an enormous challenge to your willpower. When you stake your potential success on willpower alone, you ignore your inner programming. Eventually your willpower will run out, and your Habits of Disease will take back over.
Gradual change is lasting change
Gradual change is lasting change. Instead of trying to transform every aspect of your life all at once, start small with a behavior choice that is so easy to do that failing is almost impossible. I call these micro Habits of Health (mHoH). A mHoH might seem too small to make a difference, but it will, and as your mHoHs add up, you will gain powerful momentum in your health.
Instead of going big with your New Year’s resolution, go small.
Some guidelines for implementing a mHoH
- You can make a mHoH out of any Habit of Health by breaking it down into more manageable chunks.
- If you happen to do extra on a given day, that’s great! Just always do the minimum, and keep it up for at least 66 days straight.
- If you miss a day, you can still recover and meet your 66-day mark.
- If you miss twice in a row, restart your counter and shoot for a new 66-day run.
- It’s okay if you stumble, but set yourself up for success by setting reminders on your phone or using a big calendar to mark off your days.
- If you forget everything else, remember that your mHoH should be so small that it’s almost impossible to fail and that you have to use that habit every day for at least 66 days. That’s not so bad, right?
The following are some mHoH that you can start today (start with one or two at the most):
- Do one push up a day.
- Walk 100 extra steps a day.
- Park farther from the door at work.
- Drink an extra glass of water a day.
- Meditate for one minute a day.
- Write one sentence of reflection in your journal a day.
- Read one page of a book before you go to sleep.
- Eat one extra serving of vegetables a day.
Remember, you can break any Habit of Health down into micro Habit of Healths (mHoH), so if you already have Habits of Health in place in these areas that are stronger than what I listed, that’s fantastic! Evaluate your health and find an opportunity for improvement.
No matter where you are in your journey, small changes will always be more manageable, so if any Habit of Health is difficult for you, look for an mHoH within it that you can tackle first.
Happy New Year!