It’s here, the middle of February. The time when most “new year, new me” habits get kicked to the curb. Every year I see the same cycle emerge. People start off January high spirited and with great intentions, and then slowly begin to let other things take priority. If this is where you find yourself, know that you’re in good company. Though extremely frustrating, this is normal human behavior. The good news is that you can get back on the wagon with the right tools, support, and mindset.
There are 3 main reasons people fall off the wagon when it comes to building new habits:
1 – FATIGUE – Once January hits, many of us are off to the races, eager to make that new habit stick. But then, before they know it, February rolls around and they notice they are running on fumes, heading towards burnout. Relating to creating a new habit as a sprint rather than a marathon is a sure-fire way to sabotage yourself. You see, willpower inevitably runs out. I recommend that you pace yourself, acknowledge when you’re running on empty (or almost empty) and do what needs to be done to refuel. Have compassion for yourself when you need to take a day off or you slip into an old behavior (perfectionists, I’m speaking to YOU) and finally, forgive yourself for “falling off” so that you can get back up. When you veer off course from your new habit and default to old ways of operating, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re human. Lasting change takes time to cultivate.
2 – SELF SABOTAGING BELIEFS – Your biggest limitation… is YOU. Begin to address and relate to yourself from the “I AM” context vs. “I WANT” context. Instead of saying “I want to” or “I’m trying to eat more healthy foods,” declare that you already do. “I eat healthy foods” or “I am the kind of person who eats healthy”. The underlying beliefs we hold about ourselves can be divisive and disempowering. The great news is that beliefs can be changed, we can create lasting shifts that really stick. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits talks about the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, terms coined by Dr. Carol Dweck in her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Clear states, “in a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence.” The answer is clear, we are ever-evolving, and with the right mindset, we can create the change we wish to see.
3 – INSTANT GRATIFICATION – We live in a “quick fix” world where we are constantly bombarded with overnight aging creams or “how to lose weight with this quick and easy 21-days program”. The reality is though, if you are working to make a lasting change, you must become more attached to the process of changing than you are to a specific time frame to achieve the goal. James Clear also talks about the power of 1%. The concept is if we do 1% more of something every day we will naturally build a strong, new habit and begin to see big shifts over time. For example, if you work 10 extra minutes a day you may not notice a big change in the first few weeks and months however 7 months down the road you may notice that your productivity has skyrocketed. Setting small, attainable goals will help pave the way to forming new concrete changes in your life.
While these three reasons that people fall off the new habit bandwagon can support you in getting back on track, remember that before cultivating any change in your life, first dig deep to find your WHY. Simon Sinek says it best, “the WHY behind the change you’re trying to make is the purpose, cause, or belief that drives every one of us. Whether you are an entrepreneur, an employee, a leader of a team, or are looking to find clarity on your next move, your WHY is the one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.” Once you discover your WHY, you can then anchor yourself into your commitment by using it as your foundation.