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Habits not resolutions

‘Start like you mean to go on’, sounds easy, doesn’t it? Yet with the best of intentions we still fall into our old routines just after a couple of weeks or even days from when we convinced ourselves that this would be the start of our new life and we’d become the best version of ourselves. It’s the time of the year to make a change or at least that’s what we learned. The gyms are packed, everyone is dieting and trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions, for at least a month. Right? What is yours?

These are the top 10 New Year’s resolutions from 2015:

1. Lose weight
2. Getting organized
3. Spend less, save more
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
5. Staying fit and healthy
6. Learn something exciting
7. Quite smoking
8. Help others with their dreams
9. Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family

( Statistic Brain institute)

I don’t think much has changed. We generally give the same resolution and the trend is usually that our health has priority over career and money choices in life. Same research shows that only 8 per cent will actually succeed with their resolutions, despite numerous helpful articles to read on how to set realistic goals and how to stay determined to stop or start a new habit.

I’ve had the best intentions to be healthier, spend less money, waking up earlier – and I kept failing. I’ve been thinking about why it’s like this and why it’s so hard to change a behaviour when we as human beings are very adaptable? Why isn’t the smart advices doing the trick?

Through reading several books and using yoga and meditation as way to better get to know my own triggers and behaviours, I have found an answer that makes much more sense to me. What I’ve found is that habits are much more powerful than resolutions and that we need to have a holistic understanding of all parts of our life. So I choose habits over resolutions and commit to practice over reaching some ideal goal.

I’ve had the best intentions to be healthier, spend less money, waking up earlier – and I kept failing.”

Benefits of helpful habits

Did you know that 40 per cent of our actions aren’t really decisions but habitual reactions? A researcher at Duke’s university found this in 2006 and I think there are immersive possibilities in focusing on our habits as a way to change our behaviour. If our habits are aligned with the life we want to live and with our personality, then we can save a lot of energy and mental capacity to the areas that really need our attention and we can live life more intentionally. Think of it like brushing your teeth every morning and night, comes quite easily after a while doesn’t it? The same principal can be applied to other areas in our life and where you’re shaping routines that can carry your life, so you have energy to focus on what is really important to you.

“What I’ve found is that habits are much more powerful than resolutions. So I choose habits over resolutions and commit to practice over reaching some ideal goal.”

We can probably all buy into this, so why is it so hard to form a new habits? It all starts with awareness. Here are five reasons I think sometimes we fail when trying to create new and more positive habits for ourselves.

1.  We don’t know which habits control us
We’re often completely unaware of how much time we actually spend on specific things and how these habits have crept into our lives, taking up minutes, hours and days of our lives. Habits can sometimes transform into fences around us, hindering us from opening up to what is around us.

I believe that the first step before change always is awareness. Start with taking note of how much time to spend on social media, watching tv, obsessing over details that are not helping you with your goals. Figure out what triggers your behaviour, these are key in becoming more aware and finally being able to choose to response rather than react.

2. We don’t let our values guide us in our daily decisions
When we know what our values are and we’ve committed to live by them, as much as we possibly can – we’ve already made our decision. Everything else sets off an alarm bell to your body and mind if you listen. Have you tuned in? Choosing to live by our values means that we don’t need to make the same decisions over and over again. Should I have that cake, have another glass of wine or do my morning run? Instead we could follow the habits of who we really are.

  “I’m the kind of person who does meditation because it helps me to be more present in my life. That’s why I’ll commit to my practice and doing it is an aim in itself. “

However later in life we might actually need to resist from being too set in our ways, which is something we easily become over the years. The conflict of being yourself and at the same time trying to change might just be the tension you need to grow.

3. Let’s admit it, we don’t like change
People might say that they love change but sometimes we fight against ourselves, having a hard time to let go of the known and embrace that everything is changing constantly – both us and our world. We might pretend that we agree, find ways to cheat, find excuses as to why we don’t think it’s such a good idea or not quite right for us. However imagine just trying something new or just slightly different. You can choose to walk another route to work, buy a magazine you’d never read or talk to people you usually wouldn’t approach.

4. We underestimate removing the barriers and temptations
Holding on to some of the same things that we’re trying to let go, just sets us up for failing. As if it wasn’t hard enough to break out of that old habit, we make it really easy to go back to the thing that’s familiar, safe and instantly rewarding (or so we think). When giving in to temptation we can be really hard on ourself with thinking,  I’ve already broken my promise, no point in me trying again – just making things even worse.

5. Deep within we don’t think we deserve it
This one might be the hardest to accept but I truly believe that in most cases the vicious circle of negative habits sits deep within. It might not always be that easy to understand or even notice why we continue to do something that is bad for us. We will continue with that pattern until we know the roots behind the habit. One way to start connecting with ourselves can be through meditation or just simply being present in the current moment.

These are five reasons why I think we sometimes struggle with changing old habits and forming new ones. Understanding yourself could be your first step closer to a life that feels more intentional to you. Please share your thoughts.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

– Mahatma Gandhi