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This year use your New Year’s resolution to change a small habit

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

This year use your New Year’s resolution to change a small habit

Scott Miker

People like to talk about New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each year.  They set goals and think about areas of their life that they wish were different.

The logical thing is to set a goal or resolution to change something about you.  Unfortunately the failure rate of New Year’s resolutions is about 80% by February.  What tends to happen is that we just keep falling back to old habits and the motivation fades.

With the failure rate as high as it is, you would think that we would realize that this is a flawed approach to improvement.  Setting a goal and failing isn’t the end of the world but then when the next New Year’s celebration starts we don’t learn from our mistakes and just repeat the failure process.

We either set the same goal or we set a similar goal.  It usually entails us envisioning a new motived version of ourselves, powering away in the gym or only eating vegetables for a month.  Whatever it is, we set short-term targets and try like hell to reach them.

But after a short time, life comes back and we start to have the same distractions and obstacles that always arise.  Then our motivation fades, our willpower disappears and we fall back on what we have always done.

This year do something different.  Take the same area that you want to improve but instead of setting some major goal based on what you want, take inventory of where you are.  Then work on making a very slight improvement. 

But the key is that this slight improvement has to be something that happens over and over.   

So if you want to start working out, don’t set a goal of spending an hour in the gym every day.  Set the goal to just go to the gym every day.   

Make that the goal and every single day, at the same time, drive up to the gym and go inside.  That is the goal.  That is it.

Once you get there decide if you want to stay and workout or if you want to just leave. 

This sounds insane.  Most people would say this is pointless and you have to work out, that is the whole point. 

But the struggle for most people isn’t the exercise part, it is consistently doing something.  If we can overcome this with habit, and get to a point where we go to the gym without even thinking about it, then the rest is much easier. 

Instead of failing because you find excuses why you can’t go to the gym today, you tell yourself, “hey today I’m just going to go in and then walk right back out.”

More likely than not you will stay for a little while.  Then you can slowly add more and more to that goal.  You can say the goal is to go every day, and do 5 minutes on an exercise bike.  After 5 minutes you have the option of staying for more or leaving.

The key is to keep going back to this small goal, instead of adding to it every day.  In the beginning the key is to just keep taking the same small step until that step gets easier and easier and more and more automatic. 

You can start to build new habits this New Year that will provide value far beyond January and February of this year.  You can start to build the routines and structures that you can then grow and add to in the future to slowly and methodically move closer to your target. 

This is called setting process goals.  Most people only know about outcome goals.  Outcome goals are the type of goals that state what you will achieve at the end of your journey.  Process goals focus on what you are going to do during your journey to help you change. 

You can take New Year’s as a time where everyone sets goals and 80% fail.  Or you can chart a new course by starting new habits that will provide value in the future, even though you will not see any real results for a while.  But this gives you the power of habit and harnesses this power to help you succeed instead of being the reason for your failure.