Updated: Jun 27, 2020
Can you believe we are less than 80 days away from the end of the year? And not only the end of the year but the end of the decade!
New Year's resolutions are far behind us, but if here was anything left of them, now is when most people start to relax their efforts around their goals and ultimately give up. These last three months of the year also tend to be the most stressful and if we are not intentional with our goals we are likely to take steps backwards towards them. With all the stress around us is tempting to think "I'll start over again in January" the New Year is so close that seems reasonable to want to put our goals on hold until then, as if in January 1st something magical will happen. Let me disappoint you. There is nothing different or magical happening in January. So why wait?
I personally have committed to myself that I will end the year and the decade on a better place than I started it, that I will go all in the last 90 days of this year to get as closer as I can to my goals and that I will build a strong foundation to start 2020, as Rachel Hollis would say, from the 20th floor vs the basement.
So the question is: How do you want to end 2019? and most important, where do you want to start in 2020?
I believe that if we want to start 2020 from the 20th floor we need to set a strong foundation, and that comes down to habits. If we get our habits on check, if we develop our self-discipline muscle and we equip ourselves with the right tools we'll be in a much better position to kick-off 2020 and to achieve bigger goals than we've ever been able to achieve before.
So let's start by defining a habit:
According to the dictionary, a habit is an acquired behavior patter regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary.
Habits can be good or bad and the truth is that they determine up to 40% of all the things we do on a daily basis. Many of the "decisions" we make throughout the day are not conscious decisions but just our habits. For example, brushing our teeth before going to bed, we do so not as a conscious decision but rather as a habit.
When focusing on our growth we tend to focus on what are new things we need to do, what activities we need to start, but I believe that as we attempt to build that strong foundation we need to start by identifying the habits we need to break or change, those unproductive habits that are preventing us from making progress and then identify the new productive habits we want to develop to enable us to start 2020 from a better place, ready and enabled to achieve anything we set ourselves to achieve.
The next question you might have is, how can I go about identifying those unproductive habits? Unproductive or bad habits tend to have three things in common:
They feel good at first
Like drugs, they are additive
They seem easier than the alternative
My recommendation is that you spend some time self-reflective; deep inside you, you know what are those unproductive habits that are preventing you from making progress. Take some time to clearly define these and consider habits across all aspects of your life: work, home and free time.
Try to visualize what might be the long-term consequences should you continue this habit and then try to visualize a new habit that you can replace that current unproductive habit with. Many times is just the opposite, but not always, so give it some thought. As a next step, try to visualize as vividly as possible the benefits of adopting the new productive habit and take some time to identify your why. Why you want to change a current habit or adopt a new one is key because changing a current habit or developing a new one is not easy and it doesn't overnight. In the process you will be tempted to give up as things get hard, and your why is what will keep you moving forward and not give up
Another key aspect in this journey is your mindset. If you start this journey thinking "I will do my best" or "let's see how it goes", well, let me tell you right now, you are going to fail. Instead start this journey being convince that you will succeed.
All of these things are not enough to develop a new habit. Knowing exactly what habits you want to change, identifying a new habit you wan to develop, visualizing the benefits and your why and having the right mindset is not enough unless to take action. Therefore you need to plan ahead. Define what is that you are going to do and when.
During the planning phase you want to identify your triggers and cues. Understanding these is key to develop a plan forward. Once you have identify what is that you are going to do and when, add it to your calendar. Yes! added to your calendar I know you might not put these things in your calendar but this time, please do.
Other things to consider in this planning phase:
Identify what resources you need (if any)
Identify what are the things that might through you off and think what you are going to do when triggered by them
Remove any temptations to go back to your old bad habits
Create new triggers for the new habits
Now is time to get to action! Is at this point that it gets real. They say it takes 21 days to build a habit and 90 days to develop a lifestyle. Ideally you want to practice your new habits for 90 days but at least commit to 30 days of intentionally practicing these new habits.
Another aspect that is key for success when developing new habits is to create the right support system. What do I mean by this? well I am referring to the people that are most important to you, those that you spend the most time with and those who influence your decisions. Is important that you share with them what is that you are doing and why. Ask for them help. Explain them how is that they can help you in the next 30 days as you develop these new habits.
Finding a buddy, accountability partner or / and community of people with similar goals can provide you the support, encouragement and accountability that you need.
Here are some of my tips when taking action:
Make it a daily practice
Spend more time with role models
Be imperfect and be ok with being imperfect
Regularly touch base with you buddy, accountability partner or / and community
Implement new triggers
Replace your needs, if you are giving something up you want to replace that with something else, the last thing you want it to create a whole or emptiness since that will push you to give up quicker
When you start having negative thoughts (and it will happen) use the word "BUT" to interrupt them. For example "I am not good at this BUT if I continue practicing I will get better at it"
Give yourself some grace. Withhold any judgement until after the first 30 days have passed
Self-reflect on a daily basis
Do it for yourself!
Want to learn more about how to develop new productive habits?