Change is hard. And even though you’re the one person over whose behavior you theoretically should have the most control, changing yourself is often exceedingly difficult.
Nonetheless, many of us doggedly pursue self-betterment. We set goals, hoping that we’ll achieve them along with whatever benefits they bring. We fantasize about the possibility of becoming someone closer to our idealized version of ourselves.
And during late December, many of us set resolutions for the next year.
Yet time and time again, most of us find our resolutions quickly broken. If you need evidence of this, simply go to any fitness center for a few days in early January and take note of how many people are there. Then, go back in early February. The crowds will almost always be gone.
There’s one resolution, though, that can rule them all. It’s one that I’ve found helpful when trying to change myself in a small way.
That resolution is simply this: Pick one new good habit and stick to it no matter what. Make yourself a slave to it.
Practice your new habit when you feel like it.
Practice your new habit when you don’t feel like it.
But whatever happens, stick to it.
Another way to think about this is to make a resolution to keep one resolution. Don’t try to change everything about your life or all of your habits—that’s exhausting and won’t work. Pick one manageable aspect of your life, something that you can do every day or every week.
And stick to it.
For example, one of my resolutions last year at this time was to write a blog post every week. Sometimes I felt like it—the ideas and the words came easily. Other times, it was tough. There were a few times when I woke up at 4 a.m. on a weekend to make sure I wrote my post.
Over time, though, it got easier. It became a good habit, one that I’m beginning to take for granted. It’s no longer a “change”—it’s simply something I do every week.
As you think about 2017, I encourage you to think about New Year’s Resolutions. But I encourage you even more to think about focusing your efforts on just a few resolutions, or even just one. Pick one habit, something that you can easily measure (e.g., “Did I do this—yes or no?”), and implement it.
Because when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
By the way, this applies to your professional life just as much as to your personal life. How do you think your employees or coworkers feel when you pile on a long list of new procedures or strategic initiatives?
Instead, focus. Pick one new good habit. And in 2017, make it part of your life—no matter what.
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About Ben Baran
Ben Baran, Ph.D., is probably one of the few people in the world who is equally comfortable in a university classroom, a corporate boardroom and in full body armor carrying a U.S. government-issued M4 assault rifle. Visit: www.benbaran.com.