In 2017, do you want to do something differently or just do different things? Perhaps you want to get fit, quit smoking or go on that family holiday?
I love the sense of optimism the New Year brings and there’s no doubt it’s an opportune time to embrace new dreams and foster new habits. Fresh starts and new beginnings connect us all and as human beings, we all hope for a happier and healthier 2017. A lot of us start the new year with a bang but this momentum is often lost before January is over. So what goes wrong?
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells us that a study completed in Duke University in 2006, revealed that 40% of the actions that people perform each day weren’t decisions but habits! Let’s pause on that for a moment. That means that our brains have involvement in only 40% of our daily activities! It seems that when a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in any decision making. Thankfully, habits are not our destiny but unless we deliberately tackle them or find a new routine, these patterns will unfold automatically.
So, how do we tackle the habits that hinder us? Let’s say that you want to quit smoking. Duhigg explains that habits are created by putting a cue, routine and reward together and that cultivates a craving. For example, a smoker sees (cue) a packet of cigarettes and the craving grows until (s)he reaches for one (routine) and lights up (reward).
To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, deliver the same reward but insert a new routine e.g. a smoker needs to find some activity to replace cigarettes when a nicotine craving is triggered. To overpower the habit, (s)he should identify the behaviour that is driving the craving. For example, is it boredom? Is it a need to socialise? Is it to manage stress?
Empowered with this nugget of information, consider what you want to achieve in the year ahead. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to maintain momentum and ensure that 2017 is my year? Examine your current behaviours, particularly those that may hinder your progress. Look at your existing habits, what do you need to do differently?
Remember, great achievements always start with great questions.
Good Luck it with and have a great New Year!
Gillian McGrath is a Cork based Life and Business Coach and Master Trainer. For more information, see http://www.changegrowsucceed.com