Making the Habit: How We Can Effectively Embed New Habits Into Our Lives

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

We’re nearly midway though 2017, so let’s do a quick check in on something that a few of us may have long forgotten about – our New Year’s Resolutions. A little awkward, right? For some of us, these goals may no longer be goals because we’ve achieved them – we’ve started and maintained a regular gym schedule, we’ve quit an unhealthy habit, or we’ve dived into a new hobby we enjoy. But for many of us, well, these resolutions may have fallen away from our daily lives months ago. Why is that? Why is goal setting and habit formation such a hard thing for so many people? Here are some ideas around this:

  • We’re not designed to change easily: As human beings, we are naturally prone to stay within our comfort zone. It’s what our body is used to, it is what our mind can accept. When we introduce a new habit, when we try to make change, our body and mind naturally rebel against this. It takes a lot of willpower and planning to make a habit stick.
  • We try to do too much at once: The entire idea of setting New Year goals is already not helpful, simply because most of us don’t pick just one. I can think of years where I made a goal list an entire sheet of paper long, each goal more lofty and idealistic than the last. If we are naturally inclined to reject change, what does an attempt to change everything at once do? It puts our systems into shock. And when that happens, even the smaller and more attainable goals become more difficult; giving up on everything just seems easier.
  • There’s an elephant in the room named “Shame” that no one wants to talk about: Even though every person, no matter how successful they are, shares the reality that they have experienced failure, no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to admit when they’ve given up, no one shares a status update about forgoing a goal that meant so much to them. But in this secrecy lies shame, and shame is the kindling that fuels our inability to bring positive habits into our lives. When we can accept ourselves as fallible, it means looking shame in the face and moving past it. It means accepting that it is okay to fail, thereby losing the fear of trying so many of us hold onto.

So how can we invite habit formation back into our lives? I love this video (although, a warning – the humor is a bit quirky and there is some adult language used). Once you’ve finished, we can take a look at some other lessons from this.

Now that we’ve been informed of some great, evidence-based tips for how to make habits stick, let’s spend a few moments exploring some additional things to consider before you proceed with introducing a habit.

  • What’s your plan for holding yourself accountable? While the video above has some great ideas, make sure you’ve picked one that works for you before you get started. This accountability is especially important to make sure you get through those first 66 days, and to ensure you don’t go more than one day without engaging in your new habit.
  • What habit are you going prioritize? Just pick one to start, and don’t feel obligated to introduce new habits every 30 days – choose a time frame that works for you, where you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • What’s your motivation for change? Why are you making the change? Why is this habit a priority for you? This is the kind of question that shouldn’t be answered quickly. When you think about the why behind your habit, take the time to meditate on this, journal about it, or talk with someone about. Dig down deep and go underneath the surface responses – there you’ll not just learn the why, but also the how behind keeping the habit you choose.