Do You Have What it Takes to Start a New Habit?

A picture of me crossing the finish line at the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 8th, 2017. My Stitch visor is a tribute to my old working days in Tomorrowland.

There’s no better feeling than when this thought surfaces, “I did it!”

Think about the last time you created a lofty goal and then the pride you felt once you accomplished the milestone. Goals are accomplished through hard work, discipline, and commitment. At first, I consider an easier route to get there. For example, have you ever thought this: “Can’t I just take a magic pill to lose 10 pounds?”

Most personal goals reflect a certain change someone wants to adopt in their lifestyle. The person desires new habits to make them healthier or improved in some form. According to Nielsen, these are the top five New Year’s Resolutions from 2015:

  1. Stay fit and healthy
  2. Lose weight
  3. Enjoy life to the fullest
  4. Spend less, save more
  5. Spend more time with family and friends

Only 9.2% of Americans accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions. This statistic seems disheartening until you realize that only 41% of Americans make these annual goals. And to quote The Statistic Brain, “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.”

You don’t need a certain day of the year to start a new habit. New Year’s Resolutions work for me but everyone’s different. All you need is an “A-ha” moment to motivate you to change.

Are you ready to change and also ready for the hard work, discipline, and commitment? Keep reading where I’ll share personal stories and then give six steps to help you start your new habit. Maybe this article is your “A-ha” moment!

Recent Resolutions & Adopted Habits

Often throughout the year, an idea “bubbles” in my brain. This idea is usually something I want to accomplish, yet, excuses cease my momentum. Towards the end of the year, I convince myself that it’s time to take action and forget the excuses. Why not, right?

Here’s a breakdown of my most recent resolutions as well as the habits created by them:

Only now do I realize that these goals created change in my personal habits. My life is better because these commitments rewired my behavior. Even going through the disappointment of a failed goal made me change my habits the following year. Since I’ve witnessed significant progress these last few years, my desire increases to keep making goals.

Don’t just listen to me. Here are two quotes from friends who reached their own goals and the cool experiences they enjoyed during their projects.

  • Emily Wilson accomplished her own postcard project for 2016. She “one-upped” my project by doing hers during a Leap Year.

“I was impressed with myself! I was pretty confident that I’d be able to send out 366 (LEAP YEAR) postcards but November and December proved pretty challenging so I was happy to make it through. My favorite part of the postcard project was hearing from the parents of the children I sent cards to. Kids LOVE mail it turns out!! I even got a card back from one kiddo with a stick figure picture of the two of us holding hands in a field of flowers.”

  • Alex Gage challenged herself to cook a new recipe each week for 2015 and she “didn’t mess any meal up bad enough that we had to resort to frozen pizza that night!”

“I absolutely am more confident in any kitchen I walk into now, more so than I was before I undertook this goal. One of the best and most unexpected perks was that my familiarity with spices increased, to the point that when I cook now I am more aware of what I can add or tweak in order to enhance flavor. I’m way more comfortable reaching into the spice cabinet than I ever was before! The time spent on this goal was time well spent, and I think I’m an improved person because of it.”

Start Your New Habit with a Goal

Are you feeling motivated yet? Do you have a goal already in mind? If not, think of one for a second and then go through these six action steps to help you achieve your goal!

1) Tell People About Your Goal

Once you define what you want to accomplish, it’s time to find ways to hold yourself accountable. Don’t let your goal become a “Shower Thought.”

To convince your mind that this goal is important, write down your goal and then share it with others. You don’t want to let yourself down of course, but it’s embarrassing to let down others.

My Experience: While accomplishing my 2015 goal of sending a daily postcard to a different mailbox, I shared updates on social media to keep others in the loop. This helped me gather more addresses for my project as well as made me want to succeed.

These monthly graphics were shared to track my postcards and also get people excited to cheerlead my efforts. I didn’t want to let them down.

December2) Focus on Making Progress

Research shows that significant improvement occurs if people consistently want to get a little bit better.

logoIn a Freakonomics podcast episode titled, “How to Become Great at Just About Anything,” K. Anders Ericsson shared his insights on how deliberate practice, not just gaining experience, is the key to improvement. As the psychologist says in the podcast,

“Just the amount of experience performing may in fact have a very limited chances to improve performance. The key seems to be that deliberate practice, where you’re actually working on improving your own performance – that is the key process, and that’s what you need to try to maximize.“

Focus your efforts on improving with targeted goals versus repetition which maintains your status quo.

My Experience: Three times a year, I create a Goals & Rewards Matrix for my professional and personal goals. I hold myself accountable with clearly stated goals and then enjoy my perseverance by rewarding myself with experiences and doo-dads.

For my recent Marathon training, my Goals & Rewards Matrix included a section to run a certain amount of miles each month. The amount of mileage increased each month, pushing me out of my comfort zone. My motivation to stay committed increased by seeing this goal on a piece of paper in my office. I yearned to cross off each month’s goal.

3) Learn From Others

Talk to people who’ve accomplished similar goals. They’ll provide insights to help you learn.

Let’s learn from this TED Talk by David Epstein titled, Are Athletes Really Getting Faster, Better, Stronger? He debunks that humans evolved to become more athletic when compared to previous generations. This is hard to believe because Usain Bolt’s 2012 race beat Jesse Owens’ 1936 race by 14 feet in the 100 meter dash. Yes, Usain Bolt is naturally gifted but other variables contributed to his success like the materials in the starting blocks, track technology, and shoes. Epstein concluded that if Owens possessed the same modern-day technologies, he only would have been a stride behind Bolt.

Another key factor was Bolt’s training methods. These methods focused on how to achieve peak performance and were learned over time by all the runners between him and Owens.

People have learned from the people who’ve come before them and created new training techniques and technologies to become better. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Find out what works and what doesn’t from your own experience as well as from others who’ve come before you.

Watch David Epstein’s 15 minute TED Talk here:

My Experience:

“Remember to start slow, you can always push later.”

  • Advice from Thomas Rafter, a friend who runs multiple trail marathons.

“Don’t change anything for race day. Don’t try a new pair of socks for example. Trust your training.”

  • Advice from Laurie Gartrell, a friend who ran the Boston Marathon and just completed her first triathlon.

“You can definitely get caught up in the gear and the obsessive nature of the sport, but RESIST. Running is funning.”

Each one of these people inspired me and shared wisdom to prepare me for my own race. A giant THANK YOU goes out to each of them.

4) Let Yourself Cherish the Memory

Once you accomplish your goal, be proud! Don’t move onto the next goal or shortchange yourself. You accomplished something important so savor the feeling. Find a way to give yourself credit with a celebration at your favorite restaurant or create a memento from the experience.

My Experience: Emotions ran through me while I crossed that marathon finish line. My lovely fiancee was there to support me and we looked at each other with a sense of pride. We celebrated with a round of mini-golf at my favorite course in Disney World and then enjoyed a sushi dinner.

I was hurting the day after the marathon. My sore legs caused me to walk like a stiff robot. Instead of moving onto the next goal, I purchased a nice memento to frame my medal, picture, race time, and bib so I could remember this significant milestone. I won’t let this race medal sit in a junk drawer.

5) Reflect on Your New Desired Habit

Now that you accomplished your goal, how will your life be different? Recognize what behaviors you want to continue. Chances are these behaviors are easier than you thought since you’ve trained yourself. Now you’re no longer training for a specific goal so you can turn your training into a recurring habit.

My Experience: I’m keeping the postcard economy afloat. After my postcard project, I couldn’t turn off the habit. Even to this day, whenever I’m in a touristy area, my mind is searching for postcards. I don’t send them every day anymore, but I do send them often to friends, family members, and others who I want to recognize.

If you want a postcard, just let me know and you can also follow my postcards on my Instagram account: Well-Rounded Success Postcards.

6) Repeat Process to Start a New Habit

As Charles Duhigg says in his book, The Power Of Habit:

“This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”

Thank you for reading and have fun accomplishing your goals! If you need any help, please feel free to contact me for support, encouragement, or guidance. Those new habits will be in your life sooner than you expect.

A Friendly Ask to Help Me: My current resolution is to conduct two interviews a month to gather information on how certain millennials define success as well as why they choose to give back to the world in some way. My intention with these articles is to gather information for an upcoming book. This book will hopefully inspire other millennials to find their unique paths while also improving the world in their own ways. As you can see, I already planned my 2018 New Year’s Resolution.  

I’m in need of people to interview so please let me know if you can help me with this project so I can share your inspiring message! Contact me here!

Here’s one more picture where you can see how much I loved running in the Disney parks for my marathon!


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