Anyone can turn a first thought into second nature.
Resolutions, or goals as they’re otherwise headlined, represent all that we hope to achieve in the year ahead. To drop 3 stone, run a marathon, take a longer holiday with the family this year, or start a passion project.
Yet, despite the visionary appeal and the earnestness with which we set them, the fundamental problem is that resolutions rely entirely on self-discipline. And for the restless spirit, as new inspiration comes in unpredictable but frequent waves; it is accompanied by the inevitable daily need to adapt, pivot and/or evolve.
Resolutions, which often sit well above any level of realistic attainment, also require an intense amount of effort, and yet never seem to ‘stick’. The frustration of making little or no progress come February manifests as a feeling of self-defeat.
The development of habits on the other hand, is where the limited energy, particularly that of the restless-spirited entrepreneur, is much better invested.
Habits are formed when you invest effort for a while, take the rewards of that effort then re-invest them. A bit like interest on an investment
Although lacking the same big picture appeal as resolutions, it is the repetition of habits that culminate in ‘the slight edge’ that author Jeff Olson describes as leading to success. Habits initially feel repetitive, and revolution an impossible consequence.
Cast in a different light, habits are the execution of a sort of daily resolution, constant movement, the impact of which compounds and moves us towards long-term change. A commitment to running 8-10 kilometres each morning, which over time becomes so ingrained that it happens on auto-pilot, becomes a lifestyle rather than a chore, and sets its creator up for completion of a marathon.
Entrepreneur and writer Mark Manson, describes resolutions as ‘a one-time bargain’ analogous to that of the spending mindset. Habits, he says, require one to invest one’s efforts for a little while and then take the rewards of that effort and re-invest them in a greater effort to form even better habits; comparable to earning interest on an investment.
Ultimately, self-discipline is limited during the pursuit of a singular goal – especially when the timeline is based around a full calendar year. In contrast, the force of a strongly developed habit requires no end point, and instead forms a foundation on which one can adapt or inspire change. For example, a daily gratitude practice creates a more opportunistic mindset and leads to benefits beyond just the habitual practice itself.
Resolutions are, of course, entirely necessary for painting a picture of what life would look like on the other side of change. However, perhaps challenging one’s self to consider the habits that will make achievement of those resolutions inevitable this year, is time better spent.
Lauren Armes is Editor-in-Chief of Welltodo, a global website featuring content on the wellness industry and business aspects of wellness, health, beauty, technology, fitness, food and drink.