On January 1st of each year, millions of people jubilantly declare what they intend to achieve in the year ahead.
It might be to “lose 20 pounds” or “exercise three times a week” or “start a side-business” or “stop smoking” or “save $100 a week for retirement.”
And then… a couple of weeks into the New Year, most people get overwhelmed, or feel bored or deprived, lose momentum, and get pulled back into the undertow of old habits and patterns. It happens every year.
Yet every single year, we set new resolutions, eternally optimistic that this year will be different!
I’m definitely an optimistic to the core, and I believe that every new day holds the promise of a new beginning. That’s likely why I love being a doctor on a mission to help others feel happy, healthy and more beautiful. It’s always exciting to help someone to experience a feeling of being refreshed and renewed.
But over the years, I’ve gotten a bit more pragmatic with my approach to that annual reset button of New Year’s Day with its lists of goals and resolutions. Rather than just setting a new resolution, and leaving it at that, these days, I try to set a resolution that’s backed up with a specific “strategy.”
If I say to myself, “I want to start taking a 20 minute walk every morning before heading to work.”
My next question to myself is, “How can I set myself up for success?”
After mulling that question over in my mind for a few minutes, the answer usually becomes clear fairly quickly. To set myself up for success, I could… Place my walking clothes at the foot of my bed along with my shoes and clean socks. Set my alarm 20 or 30 minutes earlier. Have my water bottle ready to go in the fridge. Pre-load my phone so that I’ve got an audio book to listen to on my morning stroll… and so on.
Lots of tiny steps that I can take, tiny “success strategies,” all of which, combined, make it infinitely more likely that I’m actually going to go on my morning walk consistently!
That one question “How can I set myself up for success?” has made such a difference in my life.
Asking myself that question has helped me to instill all kinds of new habits, from drinking more water to getting more sleep to exercising more regularly, even activities as simple as remembering to “breathe deeply” when I feel tired or stressed.
Next up on my list: Begin a daily meditation practice.
To set myself up for success, I will get up 10 minutes earlier. I will sit in my favorite chair in the living room, feet on the floor. I will wrap up in the cozy ultra-soft new blanket I got from one of my nurses. I will use a little hour glass for 10 minutes. I will download a 10-minute guided meditation that also incorporates deep breathing. I will do it. If my mind drifts, I will say “come back” but I won’t berate myself for drifting. I will celebrate each time the grains of sand run out at the 10-minute mark.
How about you?
Choose just one of your New Year’s resolutions and ask yourself, “How can I set myself up for success?”
How could you set the scene? How could you remove physical and emotional barriers? How could you make it practically impossible for you NOT to succeed?
Don’t be afraid to give yourself every possible advantage. Creating a new habit is never easy, so set yourself up for victory as best you can.
It’s the difference between trying to force a train across a ragged field full of boulders, versus moving a train across well-built tracks that have already been laid in place.
A little pre-meditated “set up” can go a very long way! Check out the Tiny Habits movement for even more guidance on these personal success strategies.
~ Dr. Sue