Resolutions: Changing Old Habits Into New Ones
If you could drastically improve your life by changing a few habits, would you? Would getting your homework done on time or keeping your room clean make your life a little easier? Is eating healthier a positive change you want to make?
Most people see changing or creating habits as overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. There are easy ways to create new, better habits and make them stick.
Focus on changing just ONE area of your life.
You don’t have to overhaul all of your habits all at once! Start with one that you think will have an impact. Various sources say it takes 21 days of repeated practice to create a new habit, so give yourself 30 days to really make it stick. The easiest way to change a habit is to replace it with a better, more productive one.
Write it down and make a plan.
Just thinking to yourself that you wan to make a change doesn’t drive you to activity. By writing down not only the habit you want to change, but also why you want to make the change helps you commit to getting started. You also need to make a plan—write down how you’ll change and what potential obstacles could prevent you from sticking to your new habit.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say the habit you want to create is to get all your homework finished before 10 PM each night.
- So that you don’t have to stay up late doing homework, which means you’ll get more sleep and avoid feeling tired and having trouble waking up in the morning
- Enjoy time with family, friends, or significant others instead of stressing about homework
- Relax before bed doing what YOU want to do: read, Netflix, YouTube, text, listen to music
- Get all A’s this marking period
- Look ahead at what’s due and at what non-homework obligations I have each day: sports practice, part time work, club meetings and projects, religious gatherings, etc.
- Start big projects EARLY. Breaking up big projects, reports, and studying up in to daily chunks means you won’t have to cram it in at the last minute
- Start homework as soon as I get home
Possible obstacles and how to overcome them:
- I like to watch TV when I get home from school
- Commit to only 30 minutes of TV when I get home OR make TV the reward when I finish my homework or the reward for a short break after I spend a certain amount of time on homework
- I have work or extracurricular activities that mean I get home in the evening
- Plan ahead and know what nights I may be getting home late so that I can do my work the day before or so that I am prepared to focus just on homework and cut out some of the fun stuff I like to do in the evenings.
- Forgetting I have an assignment due
- Use a planner or the calendar app in my phone to set reminders. Keep in mind that accidents do happen and your whole plan isn’t wrecked if you get off track one day. Keep pushing forward and learn from the mistake.
- Plain old PROCRASTINATION
- COMMIT to making a change! If you’re “good” at procrastinating, you have to tell yourself that it’s better to do it now than later and then just hunker down and get focused!
Once you commit to creating a change to your daily habits, tell people! The more people you tell, the stronger your commitment will become. Post it on your Snapchat, Instagram and any place where your friends and family will see it. Tell your friends, your parents, your teachers, whoever will listen. Each time you tell someone about the habit you are creating, you are reinforcing your whys and asking others to hold you accountable.
Track your progress and hold yourself accountable.
You’ve got a plan and you’re committed, so it’s easy right? Sort of. But now you have to DO IT!
Accountability to yourself will be about tracking your progress and making adjustments when you need to. Creating a new habit is partly about getting your homework finished on time, but also about learning to set your mind to something and make a progressive change in your life. Track your progress EVERY day for 30 days! Brag about your wins: (“I’ve done my homework before 8pm for the past 3 nights in a row!) and ask for help when you have challenges (Missed hitting my homework goal last night and I could use some encouragement to get back on track today).
There are a ton of apps that will help you track your success and accountability. Some popular ones are Lift, Productive, and Habit List. You can also do it the old school way with a pen and a paper calendar. You can use a traditional Google “Don’t break the chain” and print out the worksheet. Cross off each day that you do are successful in changing your habit. You will get a sense of accomplishment when you see the chain of X’s growing!
When you miss the mark.
Now, don’t kid yourself. While creating new habits, you probably will have a couple times that you mess up or don’t follow through. When this happens (when it happens, not if it happens!), don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re human! Look for ways that you can improve and then get back on track tomorrow. This is part of the growth process.
Throughout your life, you’ll have ups and downs. You’ll have times of good habits and not so good habits. By taking control and practicing to make these changes now, you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of success in many aspects that YOU control! What will you focus on first?
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