BREAKING BAD HABITS: 7 Golden Rules For Keeping New Year Resolutions
According to pop psychology, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, something that is worth remembering at this time of year as we make our resolutions. Whether you are planning to run a 10k or set up a new business (or both), these crucial first weeks can be daunting as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Here at Banyan, we know how hard it can be to keep your faith when trying to achieve your goals. After all, we first opened our doors in November 2019, launching straight from social unrest into a global pandemic! So in this week’s article, we share 7 golden rules we’ve learned that keep us focused, committed and primed for success, no matter what we’re aiming for.
1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life, so it can be hard to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. But having a clear vision of what you are aiming for is a vital part of staying the course when things get tough. We humans are primarily motivated by hopes and ambitions, not threats and fear. Remember that Martin Luther King inspired millions with his “I have a dream” speech, not his “I had a nightmare” scenario.
Concentrating on what you actually want, rather than what you don’t want, can change the way you view your resolutions and strengthen your ability to follow through. It means spending time creating delicious healthy meal plans and fun heart-pumping activities when you are trying to lose weight, instead of brooding over what you shouldn’t eat. It means having a realistic idea of the career path you want to be on in one year, 5 years, even 10 years time. Think of it as putting up your own personal signpost rather than a single destination, helping you stay on track. It’s okay to meander a little or veer onto a side path, as long as you keep in mind where you ultimately want to be heading.
2. START SMALL
It’s unrealistic to think that you can create major change overnight, or even in 21 days (sorry, pop psychologists). Take those ubiquitous “Couch-to-5K” online running programmes as a metaphor for any resolution that you are trying to stick to. You start off thinking “run for just 2 minutes? How the hell is that going to get me fit??” But a couple of months later you are pushing yourself harder than you thought possible. It’s so important to start with the baby steps. By building yourself up slowly, you allow yourself to adjust not just your body but your mind. Habits become formed without you even realizing it.
When we set up Banyan Workspace, we focused on one clear and simple objective; to create a small, stylish and professional workspace that we could operate with social and environmental integrity. We had no plans to become the next global coworking behemoth, we just wanted to remain true to the principles we were passionate about. People were drawn to us because they shared these principles and they appreciated working in an office where they felt they were giving back to society as well as running a business. As the pandemic restrictions hit, the community that evolved within our walls valued this dedication more than ever.
3. FIND YOUR TRIBE
There are some lucky people whose friends, family and work colleagues are encouraging and supportive when they are trying to change their habits for the better. But it can often be something of a shock to realize that many of the people we automatically turn for help can actually be less than encouraging if your new lifestyle doesn’t fit with their own vision of you. Take cutting back on alcohol as a typical example; your usual drinking buddies can be dismissive or even antagonistic towards your goal. Perhaps they worry that you will be less “fun” to go out with or perhaps your abstinence makes them feel less good about their own drinking habits.
Surrounding yourself with a supportive group of people is a vital part of walking your new path. This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your old friends altogether, but joining a regular exercise class, sports club, “quitting” support group, community club or coworking space can help you immerse yourself in the culture that you want to be a part of. The bonds that people form in these groups can become incredibly strong as you share struggles, encourage self-belief and celebrate small wins. Social media has also made it a lot easier to discover people who are in similar situations to you, both in your area and online.
4. BREAK YOUR ROUTINE
Humans are creatures of habit. Apparently, we love to be able to predict the outcome of a situation or behaviour so much that we have a tendency to repeat actions that we have done before even if we know the result isn’t exactly what we want. So don’t beat yourself up for finding it hard to step out of your comfort zone, just blame evolution. The good news is that, once you have forced yourself to try something new, even just once, it immediately becomes easier to get your head around doing it again. Can’t imagine yourself getting up at 6am to fit in a gym class before work? Do it once, and that image suddenly becomes a real memory.
The same logic applies when you are trying to break negative habits or routines. Get creatively inspired by working from a different location; prevent unhealthy eating habits by planning meals at different times or places or dining with different people; encourage a better work-life balance by keeping your work phone in a less-accessible place when you’re at home. These small rebellious acts can help you break the associations that your mind has created between your actions and your environment, stopping us from acting automatically and challenging us to actually think about what we are doing.
5. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
There will inevitably be times when you seem to be taking one step forward and slipping two steps back. This is when it becomes important to be able to take a look at how far you have already come on your journey, to steady your resolve. For personal lifestyle resolutions, one of the easiest ways to do this is to maintain a weekly logbook. When you feel that you aren’t getting anywhere, you can look back at the number of kilos you have lost, the number of plastic bottles you have saved from landfill, or the number of hours you have dedicated to volunteering for a local NGO.
When it comes to business, the concept of “progress” is more tangible and is dependent on innumerous internal and external factors. Sometimes simple maintenance can be seen as progress. Think of it as consolidation, the entrenching of new habits and building relationships. This is how we viewed our business at Banyan during the social restrictions of 2020-21. Unable to welcome guests into the space and host events, we concentrated on ensuring our members were provided with the best possible service and making small improvements to the workspace.
6. PLAN AHEAD
The important thing about planning ahead is that it allows you to prepare for any emergency situations where you might find yourself slipping back into old habits. You know yourself better than anyone else, so be as honest with yourself as you can. What are the situations that might tempt you to break your resolution? How can you avoid them? And how can you adjust or reconfigure your plans to accommodate them when it happens?
For example, we know that people want to avoid using single-use plastic, but time and convenience sometimes get in the way. So, at our workspace, we plan ahead and leave clean reusable travel cups and lunchboxes in our pantry each day, making it as easy as possible for our members to grab one on their way out the door. When they are finished with it, they can leave it at a collection point where it will be cleaned for the next person who needs it. No excuse for forgetting your reusable, no hassle to wash and return the next day.
Think about the small simple things you can do to make the right choice become the easiest choice, from laying out your gym gear the night before to pre-preparing healthy food in advance to defrost and heat up when you get home late.
7. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
When you see a loved one slip up and make a mistake, do you harangue them and give up on them completely? Or do you trust that they are regretful and will try to do better? If you are able to forgive them, then try to extend the same kindness and understanding to yourself when you slip up too. We are all fallible. Indulging in a craving for a bubble waffle on your walk home from the MTR doesn’t mean that you may as well quit a healthy lifestyle completely and live off McDonalds while binge-watching box-sets.
The fact is that even if you know what you want, are building up slowly but surely, have got a great support network around you, have broken free from old negative habits, have tracked your progress and have great plans in place to get you through various different scenarios, you can STILL have an off-day. Motivation levels can fluctuate with age, hormones, sleep quality, stress levels, time of day, weather, surroundings… the list goes on and on. The simple fact that you made the decision to improve your life in the first place coupled with the dedication you have shown this far means that you are already ahead of the game.