Jennie Marshall | 22 January 2013
I heard on the news earlier this week that it was ‘Blue Monday’. No, not a day dedicated to New Order and their legendary song, but a day that experts say is the day of the year on which most of us feel at our lowest ebb.
Apparently it's also on this date that we start to fail on all
those New Year resolutions that we made, be it managing our time
more effectively, going to the gym, dropping the office gossiping,
eating more healthily or quitting the cigarettes.
We've all faced the disappointment and guilt that comes from setting a goal and giving up on it after a couple of weeks. Sustaining motivation for a long-term goal is hard to achieve, and yet the best goals can usually only be accomplished in a few months or even years.
Here's the solution: focus instead on creating a new habit that will lead to achieving your goal.
Want to manage your time better? Start the habit of keeping a time log. Want to run a marathon? First create the habit of running every day. Want to get out of debt and start saving? Start taking a packed lunch and cutting down on the lattes.
By focusing not on what you have to achieve over the course of the next year, but instead on what you are doing each day, you are focusing on something achievable. That little daily change will add up to a huge change, over time and you'll be surprised at how far you've come in no time at all. As the old age saying goes, "Great oaks from little acorns grow".
I've used this philosophy of habit changes for many things in the past and it works, if you focus on changing your habits.
Now, changing your habits isn't easy - I won't lie to you - but it's achievable, especially if you start small. Don't try to change the world with your first habit change - take little steps at first. I started by just trying to walk a few miles - and six months later I completed a walking marathon.
So how do you change your habits? Focus on one habit at a time, and follow these steps:
- Positive changes. If you're trying to change a negative habit (quit smoking), replace it with a positive habit (running for stress relief, for example).
- Take on a 30-day challenge. Tell yourself that you're going to do this habit every day, at the same time every day, for 30 straight days without fail. Once you're past that 30-day mark, the habit will become much easier. If you fail, do not beat yourself up. Start again on a new 30-day challenge. Practice until you succeed.
- Commit yourself completely. Don't just tell yourself that you 'might' or 'should' do this. Tell the world that you will do this. Throw yourself into this 100%. Tell everyone you know. Email them. Tell your team. Post it up at your home and on your desk. This positive public pressure will help motivate you.
- Set up rewards. It's best to reward yourself often the first week, and then reward yourself every week for that first month. Make sure these are good rewards that will help motivate you to stay on track.
- Plan to beat your urges. It's best to start out by monitoring your urges, so you become more aware of them. Track them for a couple days, putting a tally mark in a small notebook every time you get an urge. Write out a plan, before you get the urges, with strategies to beat them. We all have urges to quit - how will you overcome it? What helps me most are deep breathing and drinking water. You can get through an urge - it will pass.
- Track and report your progress. Keep a log or journal or chart so that you can see your progress over time. I used a walking log for my marathon training, and a quit meter when I gave up chocolate for Lent. It's very motivating to see how far you've come. Also, if you can join an online group and report your progress each day, or email family and friends on your progress, that will help motivate you.
Most important of all: always stay positive.
learned the habit of monitoring my thoughts, and if I saw any
negative thoughts ("I want to stop!") I would squash it and replace
it with a positive thought ("I can do this!"). It works amazingly.
This is the best tip ever. If you think negative thoughts, you will
definitely fail. But if you always think positively, you will
QA Learning Expert: Leadership, Management and Business Skills