When it comes to new year resolutions, we all either want to start a new habit or get rid of an old one. Everyone loves the new year time. ‘Optimism’ is in the air. All of us look forward to ‘change’, sometimes even expecting/hoping things to change magically over night. We list down a few changes we want to bring about in our lives and start working on them, only to abandon most of them two months down the lane. Once optimism and euphoria of the new year subsides, reality sets in. We fall back into out rhythms, our comfort zones of how we do/handle things. New year resolutions, or for that matter any behavioural change requires great deal of patience and discipline on our part. Not, just limited to new year resolutions, I found the below two strategies help me in building new habits and letting go of old ones.
A very long time ago, I used to smoke. When I started it, it was more of a filler, a time killer. Then, as a company in all of my emotions – when I was stressed, when I was anxious, when I was happy, when I was angry. Basically, all the time. This continued for quite sometime. One fine day, I fell sick. My body couldn’t take it anymore. My mind told me it was important that I quit immediately. But, my body wouldn’t listen.
So, I decided not to quit. I knew my body would tremble at the idea. Not to mention the social pressure. So, I ‘postponed’ smoking for a few days. ‘Just for a few days’, I told myself. I’ll smoke after I feel a little better. I didn’t tell my friends I’d quit. I just told them what I told myself, ‘I’ll resume in a few days’. I felt the urge to smoke subside as days passed by. I realised I could handle all emotions properly without a cigarette in my hand. Moreover I started hating the smell and after-taste of a cigarette in my mouth. By now, even my friends stopped asking. And, before I knew, I hadn’t touched cigarette in a very long time. I still smoke sometimes. But, it’s more of a novelty than anything else. Instead of deciding to quit something permanently, by postponing it for a few days, I could get out of that habit. Probably you could also do the same and then replace it with a new habit.
Habits or Routines:
How we spend our time is how we spend our lives. All of us have habits, whether we consciously tried to cultivate one or not. We just have to look at how we spend our time. Do you open Twitter the moment you open your eyes in the morning? Do you need a cup of coffee in the morning? Or a peg of whiskey in the evening? They are your habits. What if I want to cultivate a new hobby? What if we want to try something new? Or, replace the existing non value add habit with a new value add one? How would I do that? The answer is – By taking one step at a time. By keeping at it everyday consistently. By not letting the ball drop. In other words, by maintaining a streak.
The concept of streaks is simple. Start tracking how far you can go, without letting the ball drop. How many days can you go before you pick up that cigarette again. How many days continuously can you exercise before quitting? Keeping ticking every completed day in the calendar. After sometime, it would’ve formed a chain – don’t break it. Don’t let the ball drop. Continue the streak. I’ve got back to Journalling and exercising (a little) with the help of streaks.
Change is tough. It doesn’t happen in a day. Life won’t change in a day. The only way you can make a lasting chage, or see a change in your life is by working on whatever you want to change/achieve, consistently over a period of time.