You’ve made the decision and created a goal. That is a great step in the right direction. Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about the basics of goal setting and how to create SMART goals that align with what’s important to you—and that you’ll be more likely to stick with, compared to the run-of-the-mill New Year’s resolutions that many of us make and promptly abandon. I’ve shared some tips on how to stay motivated and ideas for how and where to find help to stay accountable to your goals. (No judgment, we all struggle with accountability from time to time!) As we wrap up the Flourishing Fiercely blog’s April goal-setting series, I wanted to close by looking farther ahead and talking about how you can take your momentum and positive change and make it stick for the long-term. In other words, it’s time to make that new behavior a habit! They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I like to think of it more like a shift in mindset, and a true shift in mindset doesn’t happen on a one-size-fits-all timeline—it can happen on day one, or it can take you much longer than 21 days to make that shift. What you need to do is accept that the new behavior is the new normal. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help you build those better habits.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes perfect. Even if you slip up and don’t stick to your goal 100%, keep going and work on it every single day. Practice making smart choices. For example, if you’re working on a health-related goal, cook some healthy food. Go for a walk on your lunch break and try to cut back on the amount of cigarettes you smoke. Cut back on the lunches you eat out and try to do something free on the weekend if living more frugally is your goal. Keep practicing and you’ll start to get into the habit of doing things the new way.
Make It Easy to Form the New Habits
You also want to make it as easy as possible to stick to your new habits. If you’re trying to eat healthier, keep some of less-healthy foods that you find yourself tempted to binge out of the house (or buy them in smaller quantities or split that package of chips, cookies, candy, etc. with a family member or friend and give them half to take home). If you’re trying to improve your fitness or strength, keep a bag with workout clothes in your car and your sneakers by the door. If you want to pay off your credit cards and avoid charging anything else on them, freeze the cards (literally—some friends I know have frozen their credit card in a block of ice in the freezer so that they can access the card if a true emergency comes up but they’ve created a barrier that helps keep them from turning to the card for impulse purchases). Do what you can to remove temptations to slip back into old “bad” habits.
Catch Yourself Early When You Slip Back into Your Old Ways
Pay attention to your behavior and start to recognize when, how and under what circumstances you’re most likely to slip back into your old habits. Keeping a journal may help you do that. (I wrote a little about journaling as a tool for self-accountability last week and will share more about the benefits of journaling in an upcoming blog series!)
Often, just being aware of the things that tempt us to stray from our goals will help muster the willpower to stop it. It can also be helpful to replace old rituals with new ones. Replace that bowl of ice cream or bag of chips you’d munch on at night with a cup of herbal tea. If you have a fitness goal, replace some of your TV-watching time with a workout (or multitask and do some at-home workouts while watching your favorite show.) Or if, for example, you have an entrepreneurship-related goal, spend some time at the end of your day doing one thing related to your business aspirations. It doesn’t have to be big or time-consuming—in other words, you don’t have to write your whole business plan in one night after you’re already tapped out at the end of your regular work day!—it can be as simple and as fun as browsing social media and websites of your prospective competitors or of entrepreneurs you admire to get a sense of the market or find some inspiration. Make working toward your goal part of your new evening or daily ritual and keep creating new habits that you can stick with for life!
Having said all of the above—sometimes we’re following all the “right” steps to stay motivated and accountable and just need an extra boost or a bigger, bolder push to recommit yourself to your goals and stay on track. May is National Recommitment Month and in next month’s blog series, Flourishing Fiercely will be diving into why we need to recommit sometimes and how we can re-energize ourselves when life gets in the way. I’m posting today from beautiful Miami where I’ve been attending a conference for work, and the colorful plants, sun, and warm air have been just what I needed to give myself a mental pick-me-up (spring flowers and temperatures are still slowly making their way to my hometown of Chicago!) I even rented a bicycle and took time during a conference break to get outside and explore a local park and bike path. One thing to know about me is that back home, I am not a regular cyclist, or a very confident one, so my two-wheel exploring definitely required me to step out of my comfort zone–and it felt great! As we close out the month of April, I hope I’ve helped inspire you to set some SMART goals and make a plan to reach them. And I encourage you to do something to step out of your comfort zone and energize yourself for your path ahead!