A friend of mine is the general manager of a gym—one of hundreds of locations across the country. Guess what month brings in the most revenue? If you guessed January, you are 100% correct. It happens every year.
Two things I know for sure: 1) people love to make New Year’s resolutions; and 2) many resolutions involve some sort of improvement to their health.
At our gym we call them the “January People”: they sign up, come for 2-3 weeks, then go back to their old habits and we never see them again. Why does this happen?
While it’s especially visible at the gym, I suspect that a similar phenomenon is happening with other resolutions as well.
Let’s be honest: behavior change is challenging, and should not be attempted alone. Here are my three tips to avoid being one of the “January People” and get the results you want:
Get crystal clear on the why and the how.
If you want read more books this year, ask yourself why. Maybe you want to become more knowledgeable about marketing and selling, maybe you find that it relaxes you, or it simply makes you happy.
When you get clear on “why” you want to change your behavior, it becomes much easier to commit to doing it.
The next step is to clearly define “what” behavior change will look like. In the case of reading more, it could be reading 10 pages a day, reading for a set amount of time each week, or reading a summary of a business book twice a week. Be specific about what you will do: a confused mind always says no.
Look to the success of others as proof that you can do it.
Believing that you are capable of making a behavior change is an important step, and one that is often ignored. You have little chance of success if you have serious doubts that you can do it.
Eleven years ago I signed up to run my first marathon. The problem was that I had never run more than a few laps around the football field back in high school. Did I believe I could run 42.2 kilometers? I needed a little convincing.
On the advice of a friend, I went to the finish line of a local marathon—but not at the 2 plus hour mark when the winners finished—at the 5 hour mark, when the people that looked like me finished. It was powerful to witness. People were running in memory of loved ones, in support of charities they cared about, or simply to cross something off their bucket list. It was inspiring and I could so see myself doing it. My doubts about my ability to achieve my goal started to fade away, and I was able to commit to my training plan. I finished my first (of three!) marathons five months later.
Take Baby Steps Every Day.
Remember the movie What About Bob? Bill Murray plays a patient of Richard Dreyfuss who wrote a book on behaviour change called Baby Steps (you can watch a funny scene here). Though the example is a bit light-hearted, the principle is sound. In his book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy discusses the impact of making consistent, incremental behavior changes—the results are astounding!
The key is to define baby steps each day that can move you closer to your goal. We can’t lose 40 pounds in one day, but we can define the first steps to take. For me it was eating an apple and drinking 8 glasses of water every day.
What do “baby steps” look like for you? Put it in your calendar, or on your to-do list like any other task.
Many people start the New Year with unbridled optimism, and plans for massive lifestyle changes. There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic or making big plans. But to truly change, you also need a healthy dose of realism: if you think it can happen overnight, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
As we head into the 2017, remember that you can change your behavior year round—you don’t need to wait for January 1 to come around again to become a better version of yourself. And don’t be a “January person” and give up when things get tough–picture your win, and set out to achieve it, day by day.