Every man should be born again on the first of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle, if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but, on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take interest in the things that are and are to be, and not in the things that were and are past. ~Henry Ward Beecher, “A Completed Year,” 1882 December 31st
I’ve always loved a new year, the possibilities, the challenges, the chance to better myself. While letting go of the past can be trying I’ve always loved the idea of moving forward and what better way to do that than with setting achievable goals. And for me there is no way to achieve goals unless I make them a habit. Maybe you have stopped making New Year’s Resolutions, you know the ones you make on New Year’s Day but then a few weeks later seem so challenging or not fun at all so you drop them?
The all or nothing approach has never worked for me but in 2015 I created several healthy habits that stuck and continuing them helped me reach my goals. In reflecting on the year, these are the seven ways I created healthy habits. I use the term healthy not only for body health but also for mind, soul and creative spirit. You can also create financial habits such as saving more money or paying off debt. Maybe your goal is to create a clutter-free house so tidying can become a healthy habit. Whatever your desire there are habits you can put in place to achieve your goals, wishes and dreams.
Habit: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary:
the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
1. Have a support system. It’s great to do it alone, if you have that mindset, but I need accountability so having a friend or family member to check in with on a regular basis was key for me last year.
2. Use technology. While there are many downsides to technology, I concentrated on technology that motivated, encouraged or reminded me to continue my exercise goals.
3. Don’t let a slip-up end your streak. This one is always challenging. It feels good when you start a healthy habit but when you miss a day or more than one day it’s easy to go back to your old behavior. Instead of concentrating on the misses concentrate on the hits and start over. While New Year’s Day is a good day to start a healthy habit so is every other day of the year.
4. Regularly check in with yourself to keep you on track. For some people that means a workbook or calendar system. One I can’t recommend highly enough is Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year. I’ve been using her workbooks for years and they have been a valuable, helpful tool to identify/define and achieve my goals.
5. Attack resistance. Many of us face resistance from others and from ourselves when we move towards a better self. For resistance in the creative arts my favorite book is the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is a small but powerful and inspirational book.
6. Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly. Some of us perfectionists get sidelined because things aren’t going the way we think they should. Having realistic expectations might mean creating habits/goals that are smaller but achievable. For me last year that meant my daily habit of walking three miles a day had to change while I nursed my sprained ankle back to health.
7. Have fun! Things won’t always go as planned and roadblocks will be thrown your way. Don’t get so bogged down by the details of your goal that you can’t have fun when challenges inevitably crop up. Use a little bit of creative thinking and keep moving forward.
Now get back to work!
The Writing Nag