The #1 Tip for Successfully Establishing a New Habit

Are you one of those people who writes New Years Resolutions and dreams of making them all come to pass?

I was.

But I got older. Hopefully I’m a little wiser, too.

What I’ve learned is that New Year’s Resolutions rarely work for me.

Why is that?

Basically it has to do with the letter “S.”

Yes, you read that right.

Often we fail to follow through on our New Year’s ResolutionS because, in our exuberance, we draw up such a lengthy list of goalS (plural) that not even the Energizer Bunny high on 5-hour Energy shots could hope to achieve all of them.

The best way to form a new habit or follow through on a New Year’s resolution is to focus on one at a time.

Forget making lists that rival the final four Harry Potter tomes in length. Pick one new habit you want to acquire or one resolution you want to embrace, and give it your all.

Going singular increases your chances of success. Your efforts and energy are focused.

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis a month ago and given three treatment choices: hormone replacement therapy, Rx medications like the one Sally Fields advertises, or a supplements-exercise combo.

Even though I used to dread the Activity That Will Not Be Named–aka the e-word–I chose to go with the third option. I left the doctor’s office, drove directly to Curves, and signed up. Three days a week I go there for circuit training. The other four days I walk for at least thirty minutes.

I’ve not missed a day since I embarked on my exercise regimen.

As I trekked up hill and down on a recent walk, I got to wondering why I’d succeeded in establishing my new routine this time when “get exercise daily” had been one of my New Year’s resolutions for many years running.

I came to the conclusion that I’d been scattered before, attempting to form many new habits at one time, whereas this time all my efforts and energy are focused on a single goal. And that has made a remarkable difference. Other factors have increased my chances for success, but the primary factor is my single-mindedness.

Based upon what I’ve learned, I came up with a better way to approach resolutions. I’m going to write a list of habits I’d like to acquire and focus on them sequentially rather than simultaneously. If I were to resolve to form three new habits, I’d shift to a new one every four months. If I felt ambitious, I could double the number to six and transfer my efforts to a different habit every two months.

I’m excited about my new exercise regimen (although not quite as exuberant as the young woman pictured), but I’m even more excited about discovering a way of establishing a new habit that really works.

• • •

How do you go about establishing a new habit?

Do you have any “habit-forming” success stories?

Are you a New Year’s Resolutions maker or breaker?

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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20 Responses to The #1 Tip for Successfully Establishing a New Habit

  1. I think the key to a new habit is knowing what you want from it. That’s your motivation. You’ve always known the value of exercise. But now you want healthy bones. You have motivation now, so you exercise. I never form a new habit out of “should.” It comes out of “want.” The new habit is a means to something I value.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Olivia, you’re right. I was highly motivated to instill the new habit in a way I’d never been before. I want strong bones, ergo I exercise.

  2. This is good shtuff, Keli. Because like you, I often fail in the resolutions department. I love the idea of focusing on one habit at a time. In fact, I think I’m going to embrace that and pick a habit this morning. I haven’t been very intentional lately, and that’s driving me a little nutty.

  3. Eek, this is exactly my problem. I tend to overdo it in the goals department. This is a great idea!

  4. I agree that working on one thing at a time is easier and the chances of finding success are greater! I am so proud of you for doing the e word every day! Great job. I’m still working on that one! 🙂

  5. bethkvogt says:

    Keli, as you said on Twitter, we are on the same wavelength today!
    Couldn’t agree more about focusing on one thing, which is why I ripped up the whole New Year’s Resolutions idea and went with one word for the year. Just. One. Word. 2012 is my seventh year to do that and I’ve found it life-changing. You can read about it over at the MBT Ponderers’ blog:
    http://mbtponderers.blogspot.com/2011/12/dont-make-new-years-resolutions-choose.html. I’m adding a link to your blog in the comment section over there!
    😉

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, I enjoyed your post. Last year was the first time I was introduced to the “one word” concept regarding New Year’s Resolutions, and I like it. My word for 2012 is “stronger.” It’s one I repeat to myself when I’m working the Curves circuit and having to push myself hard to reach my goal on a particular machine. It can apply to other areas of my life as well.

  6. the writ and the wrote says:

    I’m definitely a resolution maker, but I fall off the wagon by mid-January. I have no goals for 2012, which I think will motivate me to get more done. It’s self-induced pressure and it gets to be too much too quickly. Nobody else cares if I accomplish writing 200 words a day or reading 10 pages in a book, but I do and I put a lot of pressure on myself because of it.

  7. Wendy says:

    I can be freakishly disciplined if something means enough to me. I ask myself throughout the day, “How bad do I want it?” and that ususally kicks me into gear.
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wendy, how I’d love to be “freakishly disciplined” about some things. I’d love for you to do a post on this so I can learn your secrets.

  8. This is awesome advice, Keli! I never thought about the resolution A.D.D. we all subject ourselves to. Hmm, now I need to think about that one big goal for 2012…

  9. Stacy Henrie says:

    I totally agree about the working on one thing at a time. Great post!

  10. Loree Huebner says:

    I’m not good in the resolution department. I take things one at a time, work hard at it, and hopefully make a success out of it.

    Great post, Keli!

  11. Keli, I am one of those compulsive list makers. The pattern I found that works is to keep the list short and if I didn’t accomplish one of them within the given time frame, I moved it forward and tried again. Not that I’ve completely beaten my procrastination tendencies, but I have at least put my “habit” of making lists to good use 🙂

  12. Marji Laine says:

    I gave up on NYResolutions some time back. All intentions were good, but starting up new habits just because it was a new year wasn’t enough impetus to get my behind in gear – especially when it came to that e-word. And yet, 6 1/2 years ago, this carb queen eliminated sugar from my life. How I did it, I’ll never know! I didn’t really think about it at the time, but that was my only focus. (Not one of many.) I think you’re on to something, Keli!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Marji, kudos to you on saying so long to sugar. I gave up sweets a number of years ago and know how hard that can be–especially chocolate and ice cream. Unlike you, though, I didn’t give up all sugar. I still use it in my tea and have syrup on my pancakes. Sadly, though, I decided at one point that shortbread wasn’t a sweet and ate oodles of it, which created a not-so-cute shortbread spread. I’ve had to cut that treat out in order to keep from needing a new wardrobe. 🙂

  13. okay keli. what’s the “s” word? i read it all over twice trying to figure out what word you were talking about!!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sorry I wasn’t as clear as I could have been, Jeannie. Thanks for letting me know.

      The letter S is the one at the end of the words resolutions and goals.

      I’ve updated the post so that is made clearer.

  14. Gillian says:

    Yes, I agree totally with the singular element. It’s problematic, as there is always too much to do, but oh well. I’m thinking I’ll get a total handle on one habit, and then slowly work in #2, etc. Great post!

  15. Sherrinda says:

    Yes, I always struggle when I put too much on my plate, trying to tackle EVERYTHING that I need to tackle. One thing at a time is the best way, for sure!

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