Everywhere I look on the net at the moment, there are articles and blog posts about new years resolutions, goals for the new year and ‘top ten tips’ on how to make those changes, and quite frankly, I’m sick to death of them all!
I hate new year resolutions. I very rarely make them and if I do, it is half-hearted and they never, never stick.
We start out with grand plans and mid way through January or February (if we’re lucky!) we are back in our old habits of eating too much and exercising too little etc, the only difference being we now have an extra layer of guilt to lug around with us for the year.
Nope. I just won’t do it.
What I do find fascinating about all this is ‘habits’, how they work and the theories around them.
According to some sources, and generally held public belief, it takes thirty days to form a habit, good or bad. Great. Except it’s not true.
About seven or so years ago, I rose at 4am every single morning for spiritual betterment and some ‘alone’ time. I did this for over two years. And then, I don’t even know what it was, but something interrupted that and…poof! Good habit gone, bad habit well and truly back. I have tried since then to re-instate that particular habit but to no avail.
I also, last year, exercised every day for over three months. Then, same story, something interrupted it and that was it. Over.
Now, the unfortunate distinction here is that the bad habit of not exercising or not getting up when I would like to, easily sticks after only one or two days!
I am pretty certain I’m not on my own here, so why do we form bad habits so much more easily than good ones?
I think the reason might lay in the inherent make up of our species. We have a natural propensity to find the easiest, least effort inducing way. We are constantly fighting our inbuilt lazy gene. This, coupled with our tendency to pander to our feelings, creates an environment that is perfect for growing and sustaining bad habits.
This trait has been very useful to us as a race in general. We wouldn’t have any of the modern inventions we have today if it weren’t for the lazy-gene. Admittedly, these inventions wouldn’t have happened without some hard work, but that’s beside the point and doesn’t suit the purposes of this post.
Have you ever heard in an advertisement for a product that says “This will not be faster or easier and you won’t feel very good doing it”? No. I haven’t either.
It carries over into our interactions with others, too. The easy way in relationships is quite often not the best way. Being courteous, kind and considerate doesn’t come naturally to us. Left to our own devices, quite the opposite is the reality.
It’s all about doing things with intent. I have to actively make the decision to get up early or to exercise. With no actual decision, I will take the easy route. I have to intentionally make the change, whereas, a bad habit I can slip into quite naturally.
To create a great relationship with another person, I have to intentionally think of that person before myself and look for ways to enrich their life. Naturally, I am selfish and am looking for ways in which they can enrich my life (and be ready to tell them exactly how to do it!).
Maybe once we recognise that we will nearly always take the path of least resistance, whether it be exercise or showing our love for a person, we can begin to work on making our ‘natural’ self a bit more like our ‘intentional’ self, and just maybe some of those good habits will stick around more than the bad ones.
So maybe the only resolution I should make this January is to live more intentionally, and not be ruled by my lazy-gene and my feeling-gene. How about you?