February 1st. Today is the day. Today is the day that Joanne, my trainer, says attendance at the gym will drop dramatically:
“Oh yeah, like clockwork. I see it every year. First day of February all those people that got gym memberships to get into shape will give up on their resolutions.”
She called this period after making a New Year’s resolution “the honeymoon”.
“Everybody has good intentions, but it takes more than that to get into the habit of coming to the gym 3 times a week. It takes discipline. Without discipline, when the honeymoon is over. It’s over.”
Whether you want to get in shape, become more organized, or be a better leader you are engaging in the process of changing habits. This process has three distinct phases: Inspiration, Managing Inner Resistance and Second Nature.
During the Inspiration phase people get motivated to make a positive change. Not surprisingly, January is a common time for this kind of inspiration. You, yourself, may have decided to start 2018 afresh.
Unfortunately, experience shows that people enter the second phase of the process and begin to lose their resolve about a month after they’ve made a commitment to change. THAT’S TODAY!
My job as a coach is to be a resource and support to people as they implement change. Below find a collection of proven tips that my clients have used to keep on track. These techniques help push through the resistance we all feel after the initial inspiration of a New Year’s resolution starts to fade.
Tips to Push through Resistance
First, it’s important to acknowledge that after the honeymoon phrase you will likely hit a wall. This recognition is vital for ongoing success. When you feel yourself slacking off know that resistance is a natural part of the process. Don’t be surprised by it. Wanting to quit doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means it’s time to refocus your efforts and push through.
Mentally acknowledge that each time you give up on implementing your goal makes it easier to give up the next time you lose your resolve. Even more important to recognize is that each time you stick to your resolution makes it easier for you to stick to it the next time. Achievement brings more achievement.
Specificity is the key to success. For example, “I’m going to get into shape” is a general goal. How will you do it? What exactly will you do? When will you do it? Being specific helps make goals actionable and therefore more attainable. A more specific fitness goal is: “I’m going to go to the gym Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after work and take a 30 minute spin class.”
A specific Leadership goal could be: “As a way to build better working relationships, I’m going to spend the first 15 minutes of each day visiting staff at their desks and engage in non-work related conversation with them.”
It’s difficult to stay true to your resolution if no one knows about it but you. One reason working with a coach helps people succeed is that the coach becomes an accountability partner. The coach will ask how things are going. If you didn’t do what you said you were going to do you’ll have to fess up. Avoiding embarrassment is a strong motivator to keep at your goal.
Coaches are also there to celebrate your victories. Got to the gym on day you didn’t feel like going? Your coach will understand what a big deal that is and make you feel great about yourself.
You don’t have to have a coach to have an accountability partner. A good friend, colleague or family member can take on this role for you. Tell them what you want to accomplish and then call or email them with your daily progress.
Posting a blog is another way to make your goals public and keep you accountable.
Many people find money a good motivator. This is another reason working with a coach is helpful. You’ll have to pay the coach for their services. You now not only have an accountability partner, you’ve created an investment in yourself. If you don’t follow through with your goals, you will have wasted your money.
There are also several apps available that use money as a punishment. If you don’t keep true to your goal, you have to pay up. Check out: Pact, Stickk, DietBet, Write or Die, or Habit recode. There are, of course, many others. Visit your app store and search by your goal.
Decide what rewards you can give yourself when you stick with your plan. Did you put all of your files back in the cabinet at the end of your work day? File all of your receipts? Provide positive feedback to a difficult staff member? Then go ahead and book yourself a massage or take yourself to a movie.
Leverage the vision you had for yourself in the first place:
You can do this by asking yourself two powerful questions:
- How will I feel about myself if I don’t do this today?
- How will I feel about myself if I do this today?
Clients have told me that these two questions helped re-motivate them on days they were about to let their new habit slip.
Create a visual reminder:
A visual reminder can be a great motivator. Brad Isaac, a software engineer turned stand up comic has spoken about the struggle he was having developing new comedy material.
He said he got some great advice from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld about putting a Year-At-A-Glance calendar on the wall of his office. Seinfeld told him to put a big red X at the end of each day that he wrote new material. It didn’t matter if the material was good, it just mattered that Brad had spent time writing.
After a few days of marking the calendar Brad had a chain of red Xs on the wall. Jerry told him:
“…just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Push Through: It’s Worth It!
So, go get yourself a calendar. Start creating a chain of red Xs. Today is the day. Today is the day to recommit to your goal. Download an app, or ask someone to be your accountability partner, but keep at it. It might not be easy—but it will be worth it.