Think Habits, Not Resolutions

We are often told to make New Year’s Resolutions, but then by February we have all given up on those promises. I am encouraging you today to start the New Year early with looking at how to improve your habits, not make resolutions.

Real change does not happen overnight despite what Facebook, and a highlight society has promised. Most successful people have good daily habits, make proper decisions, and are consistent with their follow thru.

We know that you probably are not motivated anyway to attack your New Year's Resolutions. So instead of some promise that can only be carried out by will power (or enthusiasm), how about a different approach?

The goal is not really to have a Resolution, as so much a lifestyle change that sticks. We are a collection of our thoughts, lifestyle, and daily actions. You can see it when you meet with people all the time. You notice how they look, act, or what they eat.

So let's stick to practical, and realistic advice. You want to develop actions (sleep habits, eating, rest, relaxation, meditation, etc.) that you will follow thru on daily. These will turn into habits, which will create that lifestyle change.

The popular notion is it takes repetition of an act over 20 to 30 days for it to become a habit. The reality is it is more like 2 months (or more) according to a study by Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London.

There are 3 books that have come out the last few years that cover these topics. We are all very busy, so I understand if you do not have time to read every self help or success book that is released. I've actually have only skimmed these books, but instead watched YouTube videos to get the themes. I am a believer in daily self improvement and online videos provide a good resource.

The Power of Habit: Charles Duhigg at TEDxTeachersCollege

Duhigg is a NY times writer who wrote a book that breaks down how we go about our habits, and what cues the brain has that create our habits.  What's fascinating about this is if you start understand what rewards you receive from bad habits, you can find substitutes to replace with better habits.

The process for a habit goes like this - a Cue happens, then you have your Routine, then a Reward for the Habit. Duhigg's example is he would take a cookie break every afternoon about 3 pm. The Cue was 3pm, the routine was going to get the cookie, and the reward was eating the cookie.

This was a bad habit, and he was gaining weight. So he replaced this habit with social time everyday at 3pm. He would wander over to another employee's cubicle and talk to them. His reward would be social interaction, and distraction and he stopped his bad snacking.

Psychologically the more you do your habits, the less you think about the action. This is good when you have established healthy habits. Do not underestimate the reward part either. Even if you reward a positive action with a questionable gift. Over time you may not even need the reward, and you just do the action out of habit.

Scott Adams Connect2014 Keynote

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon and he wrote a book that dispels the idea of being only 'goal oriented'. Adams argues that good daily successful habits give you the best chance of being successful, because it puts you in a position to take advantage of opportunities.

He argues for systems. The process should be the main driver. As you work on the process, you develop skills that can be used for more than your current goals. Goals can change, and if you have a system (or good habits) you are more open to new events. Your personal value also keeps increasing even if you fail at some of your goals.

Adams makes the same point as Duhigg, of giving yourself a reward for a positive habit. Then you want to do the action (eat better, exercise, etc.). the reward plus the positive emotional feedback reinforce your new habits. Now you have better 'energy' and you take on more.

Arianna Huffington on The Science of Sleep and Success with Lewis Howes

This is not the best talk, but her main points about the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. So much of productivity is in society is linked to how much sleep one gets. Also a multitude of health disorders are linked to sleep, and everyone needs at least 7 (to 9) hours of sleep daily. 

If you choose to ignore this, eventually you burn out or worse. We spend so much time adding things to our schedule, and this usually just makes us too busy. Instead of getting to all the things on your list, your work just suffers. Ultimately this affects your day, adds stress and hurts sleep. Slowing down, prioritizing your health (and sleep) will actually make you more productive over the long run.

Hopefully these 3 examples will help you to evaluate your current habits. Then you evaluate what you are working to change in your current routine to improve yourself over the long term.


We write this blog to help small business owners with their dilemmas, because that is what who we are, and those are our clients.


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