I originally wrote this post as a New Year’s resolution hype speech. As we all know, January is the time of year where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a discussion about NEW YEAR NEW YOU! These messages are delivered by really enthusiastic people with oddly non-wrinkled skin who have teams of people supporting their every need. But here we are in March with many of our New Year’s resolutions left unresolved.
Sustainable Sue here to deliver a couple reality checks for us mere mortals as we consider the fresh clean page that 2023 has to offer us. I also want to introduce you to an alternate approach to these resolutions that might help you get more traction on habit change.
Reality Check #1: There is nothing magical about January 1
New Year’s resolutions can happy on days other than January first. Sometimes I set goals on my birthday in mid-June. When I flip my notebook to a fresh page I make decisions about what I will spend my time on that week. Today I made a resolution in the afternoon to get a third dog walk in after dinner.
Don’t get sucked into thinking if you missed Jan 1 “magic” that you have to wait 364 more days to change your habits.
Reality Check #2: Will power is a myth
Despite what you may have been taught by old school coaches (well meaning or not), your will power does not dictate your success. Motivation and determination are factors that can help you succeed with resolutions, but they are not the be all to end all.
If you cannot muscle through that workout while you are running a fever – you are not lacking will power. If you did not get your kids’ homemade Halloween costumes sewn this year, it is not about will power. Quitting goals, leaving jobs undone, abandoning projects – this is not a referendum on your will power.
It is a reflection of the approach to habit change that you picked. Not YOU for picking it, but just the wrong approach for the wrong time of life.
An Alternate Approach to Resolutions
One of the basics to consider with habit change is that we act because the pain get to be too much. Let me give you a few examples from my own life.
- After finding my clothes without elastic waists did not fit well anymore, I made the habit changes to lose the weight.
- When my knee pain became too great, I recommitted myself to my physical therapy regime.
- I started blogging and podcasting when I was lonely in a group of people and wanted a truer, sustainable connection.
- I quit drinking when alcohol became more of a problem than a solution.
Let’s see how science can help you with your resolutions.
Inertia is Newton’s first law of motion. A body at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Our resistance to habit change is a LAW OF NATURE. This is not about your will power, this is how the universe works.
But let’s talk about that “outside force” that can get a body at rest to change. This is motivation. Usually motivation is pain, although for some people it might be faux inspiration on Instagram or TikTok or the PTA meeting. Motivation can be summarized as a reason for acting or behaving.
But the further we get from that pain, we need to shift our reliance to commitment more than motivation. Commitment is dedication to a cause – this is a slight, but important difference when it comes to habit change.
Consider a fly wheel. As defined by Wikipedia, “a flywheel is a mechanical device which uses the conservation of angular momentum to store rotational energy; a form of kinetic energy proportional to the product of its moment of inertia and the square of its rotational speed.”
JK – this is Sustainable Sue, not Physics Corner. But I do want to consider the fly wheel. It takes effort to get the fly wheel to start turning. But once it is turning, a simple flick can keep it going.
See that long arm attached to the wheel, that body at rest needs to move in order to start the fly wheel turning. It takes a large amount of energy to make that happen. But once it gets going, physics takes over and it rolls on with little external effort needed. The fly wheel of habit change is similar.
It takes a large amount of energy to start the wheel. You know what has a large amount of energy? Pain. Pain starts the fly wheel turning. It is hard, but motivation to not experience the pain anymore keeps you going. It takes effort to juggle the schedule to fit meal prep into the after work times. You forget that you meant to practice guitar because it is not part of your routine. You over did it at your first visit back to the gym and now need to skip a couple days so you can walk down the stairs. There is resistance at first. Starts and stops as this new you churns to life.
But then habits and routines start to form and grease that fly wheel. You have a streak of 5 weeks in a row where you flossed your teeth more days than not. Three days in a row of journaling become three weeks in a row and you see the benefits peeking through. Saying no to something frees up space in your life that is much needed.
Here is an example of how that worked for me.
Sustainable Sue Resolves to Show Up Consistently
I set up a habit tracker check list of sorts for different activities. One for Sustainable Sue work so I can show up consistently – writing, social media, podcasting, networking and the like. I have another for physical therapy routines so I don’t forget any exercises. It seems trivial and inconsequential that I would need a checklist to remember to post to social media. But it is the consistency that I want for my business. In order to get people to know, like, and trust me I need to show up on social media. The book proposal isn’t going to write itself, I need to work on it regularly. But what happens over time – over several weeks of showing up for myself and these seemingly small actions – is that they are the small pushes that keep the fly wheel going. It is motivating to see the checkmarks accumulate. There is peer pressure to do the thing that I don’t feel like doing. Yesterday Sue got it done. Future Sue will want to see a streak in tact. Therefore Today Sue better do the work. The work doesn’t need to be liked, it needs to be done.
But you have to start. Not by purchasing all the books on organizing to get your house in order. Not buying a yoga wardrobe before your first down dog. Start where you are with what you have. I recently pulled out old paints my daughter had stuffed in the back of her closet because I wanted to noodle around with painting. No need for an easel, a studio and classes yet. I might not even like it!
Sustainable You Reflections
- If you set goals for 2023, what pain is driving the motivation to take these on? Identifying the why can help later when the fly wheel starts to slow.
- Do you really have the time and effort to take on this goal now? Will this be sustainable long term?
- List three things you can do to set yourself up for success? If you take on this new goal, how can it be productive for you?
I can’t wait to hear about your results. Send feedback or questions to Susan@SustainableSue.com or find me on Instagram or Facebook.
Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustains you.