If you’re like most people, you’ve adopted a set of New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Things like losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking, saving a certain amount of money and finding a new job are among the most common resolutions.
Also, if you’re like most people, you won’t keep them. Sociological research has shown only about 10 percent of resolutions are maintained more than a few months. Rather than setting resolutions for yourself this year, try this approach instead: adopt new habits.
Here’s why habits can be more useful than resolutions:
|Habits get to the heart of the matter.
By focusing on habits, you are encouraged to address the root of a problem and the behaviors that cause it. If you want to lose weight, by focusing on your habits you will inevitably have to address how you eat and how you exercise. Addressing these root causes of weight gain brings you the benefit of better health long after you meet a specific weight goal.
Resolutions, on the other hand, are focused on end points and encourage short cuts. If all that matters is losing weight, you may try to get to your ideal weight as soon as possible by using drugs or fad diets that are unlikely to work long-term.
|Habits avoid the feeling of failure.
Resolutions often drift into obscurity because you feel like a failure when the goals are unmet. Any setbacks or backsliding on the way are devastating, because you are that much further away from meeting your goal.
As soon as you practice a habit you feel like a winner. By eating a salad as part of a healthy eating habit, you get a positive feeling of achievement: “I’m doing something that’s good for me right now.” If you were focused on a weight loss resolution, eating a salad seems like a futile gesture: “I’m still ten pounds from my weight loss goal. How long do I have to keep eating like this?”
|Habits avoid the letdown of success.
Strange as it may sound, achieving a resolution can be just as harmful as not achieving it. If you’re one of the 10 percent of people who achieve a resolution, you might be surprised that you feel let down afterwards. “Is that it? Is that all I’ve been working for?”
This famously happened to Alexander the Great, who set out to conquer the entire known world of the classical era. When he’d beaten everyone, Alexander supposedly “wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”
With a focus on habits, you no longer get hung up on the goal line. Why not consider changing a habit or two? Perhaps the true feeling of success is practicing a positive habit over and over again, with no end in sight to the satisfaction it brings.