First of all, Happy New Year and welcome to 2023!!! As we start the new year, it is time again to start a new calendar, remember to write 2023 instead of 2022 on your letters, and of course, to kick off your New Year’s resolutions. As you start the process, I thought I would provide a few thoughts and “opinions” to keep in mind.
As I mentioned in my third book, “Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-Based Life,” the process of starting and keeping New Year’s resolutions is not easy. New Year’s resolutions involve starting a new habit, and as you know, current habits are hard to break, and new habits are hard to sustain. For example 80% of New Year’s resolutions started in January fail by the middle of February. To test this out, for example, go to a fitness center the first few weeks of January. It is hard to find an empty piece of equipment. However, by the end of February, there are very few people there and a lot of empty equipment.
Why does this happen? Well, in addition to it starting a new habit that you want to be sustainable, we often forget that there are only 168 hours in a week (7 days X 24 hours). Here’s what I mean. Suppose you want to start a new habit that takes 20 minutes a day (maybe it is learning a new language or playing the piano). The first thought is “that’s easy, how hard could it be to find 20 minutes?” Well, 20 minutes a day is 2 hours and 20 minutes every week. If you decide to add this habit to your weekly activities, I am certain your week will not increase from 168 hours to 170 hours and 20 minutes. There are some things you are currently doing that will most likely not get done. The key is to prioritize what is most important to you. If you don’t, you will be SURPRISED!!!
Okay, since I am an optimist, let’s discuss several steps that can increase the probability of success for your New Year’s resolutions:
- Take the time to figure out what you want to change and WHY? As my Kellogg colleague Fred Harburg taught me, make sure you focus on the CAUSE of the habit, and not the EFFECT. Many people make a resolution to lose 30 pounds, but that is the EFFECT. The CAUSE is improved dietary and exercise habits. You can seriously say you want to lose 30 pounds, but it will never happen without focusing on the CAUSE.
- Be very specific in your resolutions. What exactly are you going to do, when, and how often? As I tell my Kellogg students, my four favorite words are discipline, focus, consistency, and credibility!
- Find people to support you and hold you accountable. Keeping a resolution is much easier if you do it with others. For example, when I was in college, I stated a goal of running 3 miles four days a week. However, if it was raining or I stayed up late the night before, I rationalized that I should make an exception. That all changed when I convinced my roommate to run with me. No matter what the weather was, there was no way I would chicken out if he was going to run, and he wasn’t going to drop out if I was going to run.
- Measure your progress. We are all aware of the expression, “what gets measured, gets done. If it isn’t measured, don’t be surprised it doesn’t get done.” I decided 30 years ago that I would weigh myself every day. Talk about discipline, if my weight increases even two pounds over a few days, I will skip sweets and make an extra trip to the gym. Getting on the scale every morning is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Okay, now by coincidence, I have the opportunity to test out my own “opinions,” or as my Dad would say, “put my money where my mouth is.” I saw a note this morning that Father Mike Schmitz has a “Bible In a Year Podcast” in which he walks through the entire bible in ”365 episodes, providing commentary, reflection and prayer along the way.” I have wanted to read the entire bible many times but have never done it. I am going to make it my New Year’s resolution. It is 20-25 minutes a day. So rather than being “surprised” that it is 2.5 additional hours a week, I will plan to listen to the podcast while I am already exercising 4 days a week. The other 3 days I will do 25 minutes less reading of my history books or listen to the podcast while commuting to the office. No matter what, it must fit into MY 168 HOURS. I will let you know how it works out 😉
Once again, here’s wishing you a wonderful 2023!!