In a previous post, I wrote about how it is necessary to integrate your resolutions within your life’s auto-pilot system. In this context, this system includes all the habits you’ve acquired over the years. The interesting thing is that as we grow older and shoulder more responsibilities, we forget to take a moment to upgrade this auto-pilot system. Let’s take an iphone example from my own phone. All the notifications in the photo below are because I haven’t updated the apps AND the iOS software (the solitary notification on the settings).
Likewise, we tend to walk into new roles with the old habits, and that’s part of the reason why you might find fresh graduates entering the workplace with ‘a student mentality’ (never a compliment, trust me!), or husbands entering a marriage with a ‘bachelor’s mentality’. So in order to upgrade, take note of the following:
1) Write down your current roles and responsibilities, and list down all the habits that are connected to each role. You don’t have to do this on your own. Sometimes you can’t actually, because we tend to be blind to our habits. So it may help to work with a close family member or a friend as they can point out habits ‘we do without consciously thinking about’.
2) Dissect. When it comes to our habits, it helps to understand why some habits exist in the first place. As previously mentioned, many bad habits that are in our lives exist because we get some sort of payoff out of them. Once we assess the payoff and it becomes clear that the payoff is not worth the drawback that comes with the habit, then it would be easier to get rid of it. And sometimes we may realize that we don’t really need to get rid of it, because the payoff is actually important for us, so we can stop being guilty about it.
3) Habit replacement. In Charles Duhigg’s book, ‘The Power of Habit’, he writes about the habit loop shown in the figure below. The habit loop is given in generic terms, and consists of the habit trigger (cue), the habit itself and the reward. So one of the methods to change a habit is to experiment with rewards, understand what drives the habit (what the true payoff is), and replace the habit with something that would result in a similar reward.
4) Repeat the behavior consistently until it becomes a habit. Some people claim it takes 20 to 30 days to make a new habit, but there’s no clear cut rule for that. One thing that could drive you to keep a daily new habit even when you don’t feel motivated is the “Calender method”. A blogger on Lifehacker.com wrote about how Seinfield used it to write jokes everyday. The blogger, Brad Isaac, wrote, “[Seinfield] told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. ‘After a few days you’ll have a chain. You’ll like seeing that chain. Your only job next is to not break the chain.’”
Having an optimized auto-pilot system helps because it contains habits that move us forward regardless of how motivated (or not) we feel on that day. The thing to remember is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and take a step everyday so in a month we can look back and see that we’re 30 steps ahead (or 28…depends on the month :-P).
Feel free to leave your comment below and share with your friends.
It’s pretty clear that I love journals. At some point I wrote in my journal about how I need to be more organized. I made a resolution to have a color code when it comes to my journals. The code suggested might have been;
1) ‘black’ for bloggable ideas
2)’blue’ for ranting about something that happened during the day
3)’red’ for works of fiction
Or maybe that was not the color code. Since that resolution was not written in a different color, naturally I could not find it again. It got lost among the words. The idea was great but the problem was obviously in its implementation. Which makes me think of ‘Resolutions’; great idea, but poorly implemented.
A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s as if they needed January 1 to be reminded that maybe they need to eat healthier and exercise more. But if you really think about it, New Year’s Resolutions are a major procrastination technique where you’re supposed to wait for the time or date to be right to begin something. It’s like when you break your resolution by Day 30, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Maybe next year.”
A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself, and as mentioned in “Broken Promises” the reason many promises find themselves broken is because they are made with a mindset that is different from the mindset with which the’re broken. So come January 1, you’re pumped up and excited about your resolutions because the market is selling you the slogan ‘A new year, a new you,’ and that’s the mindset with which you write your resolutions. Come Day 30 and you just left work feeling weary and subdued, and you know you’ve promised yourself to stay away from Baskin Robbins but it was on your way home, and it might as well have jumped right in front of you because there you are standing at the counter selecting flavors, mentally doing this, ‘
I resolve to stop eating sugary snacks‘.
So what’s the solution to this vicious cycle of making resolutions and then breaking them? Many people delineate solutions and sell them as a self-help book or something, but the most intuitive response involves:
1) Don’t make resolutions that are not important to you. Sometimes you might find yourself making a resolution just because everybody is putting it on their list and it really adds no value to your life. It’s the simple rule of ‘Don’t make a promise you can’t (or don’t want to) keep’.
2) Write down your resolutions. The idea is to take the idea out of your mind and keep it somewhere you can review it occasionally. Some people hang it on their boards, others save it on their phone notes. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
3) Baby steps. When you write down a list of 25 resolutions that will turn your life upside down, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed and give up a a few days later. The easiest way to go around it is to make a few promises to yourself, let’s say four, and work on a concrete plan on how you’re planning to stick to these four resolutions then update your list on a monthly basis.
4) Integrate your resolutions within your life’s auto-pilot system. A system in this context is a collection of habits that you acquire over the years. If you think you don’t have an auto-pilot system, think again. Everyday we do things more out of habit than out of conscious effort. Developing your system requires more than knowing your habits exist. You would need to understand where your habits come from, what the payoffs are (because all habits, whether good or bad have payoffs), and finally, how to change them. But changing a habit is easier said than done. Some habits are so difficult to change, you might want to consider not changing them because the effort is not worth the result. When done properly, having an effective auto-pilot system would help you keep your resolutions even on the days you ‘don’t feel like it’ and are more likely to break your resolutions.
Let’s take an example; come January 2014, you resolve to spend more time with your family. If your auto-pilot system has you work everyday until 8 pm then you go home and sit in front of the TV until midnight, how will you keep that promise? Your system does not support it. But if you force yourself to leave work at 5 pm, and you get rid of your TV, then maybe this particular resolution has a chance of surviving. Think of it in another way, even if you don’t feel like spending more time with your family, just the fact that you habitually make it home by five and have no TV to distract you might force you to do it.
So if I want to keep that color-code resolution when it comes to my journal, I need to get one of those four-colored pens and keep it with the journal at all time and have a post-it note at the back of the front cover with a clear legend, and in that way, the ‘system’ would support the resolution.
So what about you? Do you make resolutions every January or every month or every day? Do you stick to them? How?
Leave your comment below.
You know how people always encourage us to stay away from the sidelines and live life on the field? But what if it’s better for some people to live on the sidelines? What’s wrong with observing human behavior from afar without participating?
What if interacting with others not only minimizes how much you get hurt but how much you hurt others? What if you tried to navigate the field of human relationships and got nothing but pain in the end? What if you realize that even if you try to tread as lightly as a butterfly, there are mines that will have to go off? And mines are mines,figuratively speaking, nothing light about them…
What if there is a threshold to how much rejection you can accept? What if there is a limit to how many broken promises you can hear? That it doesn’t matter what our intentions are, irreparably damaging others is inevitable. Someone out there might be stronger because of something you did. But someone out there might be weaker because of something you did as well.
People want to leave a legacy, maybe as small as a vivid memory in the mind of another but what if that memory of you sears the other so it affects every decision they make for years and years and years, not necessarily in a good way. How do you even look at the mirror then? The problem is, some people do, and to them it’s business as usual. And while whatever they did seems to permeate every facet of your life (not necessary in a good way) they’re out there living their happy lives like you didn’t matter.
Because the truth is
So here’s to the people on the sidelines, don’t feel bad about staying there. Sometimes it’s not a bad choice because people normally underestimate the (good or bad) affect they have on others.
And to the others, W.B. Yeats writes, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”