New Year’s Resolutions. New eating plans. New rules. New gym membership. New morning routine. New attitude. New job. New relationship. A new start.
Or is it?
Whether we realize or not, the New Year always brings about a shift in our perspective. And that shift is simply due to one reason: a calendar date.
But pause and think about it for one moment. Does the universe really know what day, month, or year it is?
As human beings, we are “chronologically impaired”—we rely on clock and calendar to make sense of our lives. But time is just an illusion created (by us) in order to understand where we are in relationship to other things and people. It’s only our concept of time that is our reality.
Like time, the New Year is the illusion—and the choice to make changes is the reality. Sure, the New Year is a trigger for creating changes, but why wait until January 1 to try something new?
We can choose to make changes in our lives at any time.
Creating the momentum for change in our lives may be simple, but not easy. New healthy habits require dedication and commitment. Nothing substantial happens overnight.
Here are a few tips for developing healthy habits that will stick:
Change one thing at a time. 1) Make a small change in a habit or routine; 2) Pay attention to the outcome; 3) If it works, keep it; if not, course correct by making a new choice—but don’t go back to the old habit. For example, instead of reaching for soda, try a vitamin drink, low-sugar juice, or flavored sparkling water. If you don’t like your new choice, choose something else—but don’t go back to soda. Think forward.
Ease into a new routine. Just because something worked for us in the past doesn’t guarantee the same result today. Nice and easy does it. For example, if you jogged 3 miles a day last year, you might need to work back up to that distance in increments. Be patient. Allow your body to readjust. If you push too hard, you might pay a painful price—and pain is usually not a sign that we’re doing it right.
Consciously choose your food. Stop the autopilot. Think before you bite. Look at labels. Watch portion size; remember that most portion sizes at restaurants are inflated! If eating out, try sharing dinner or splitting it in half and eating the other half for lunch tomorrow. Consider saving dessert for celebrating special occasions. And surviving through your workweek is usually not a special occasion.
Get the right tools before you begin. Creating successful change requires the right support. For example, if you’ve been meaning to re-organize the hall closet, open the door and quickly assess what is needed to do the job right before you start (for example, buy new shelving, shoe racks, bins, etc.). A few minutes of pre-planning can save hours of extra work.
Avoid personal projecting. When we think of ourselves from the viewpoints of others, we can project. For example, we may say to ourselves, “I wonder what I look like as I’m doing this? What are others thinking of me?” Projecting puts us outside of ourselves. And while taking an external perspective can occasionally be helpful (for example, identifying our own rude or disrespectful behaviors), it’s mostly unnecessary. What others think of you is out of your control, so just be yourself.
Support yourself. To truly be our best selves, we need to support our choices. Make a commitment to do your best; believe you are doing your best; and then do your best at whatever you desire to change. And if you fall off the wagon, get back on. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. Avoid blaming others for your results. Own your changes and be proud of them.
Remember: It doesn’t take New Year’s Eve to create new healthy habits. The time for change is when we are ready, and we can take the first steps at any time—even if it’s not January 1.
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg helps people navigate through transitions in work, relationships, and life. Find more at michaelsunnarborg.com