Take three steps to healthier habits

Ruth Griffiths

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions that involve personal change. If you are like most people I know, you have already fallen off the wagon. Don’t despair; it’s never too late to learn a good habit.

When we want to make personal changes, most of us try to change too many things at once or set goals beyond our reach. When we make a mistake on the way to reaching that goal, we feel like a failure and just give up.

Take weight loss as an example. I might set out to loose five pounds in a month. A totally reasonable goal. Inevitably, I will have a setback and fail to loose the weight I wanted to. That’s not my cue to abandon my diet and exercise program.  It just means I need to figure out where my plan went wrong, refine the plan and then get on with it.

There’s nothing magical about New Year’s Day for personal change. You can choose any day to begin your journey for change. But the best day to change is “today.” Don’t put it off to tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes.

Most of the things we want to change in our lives come under the heading of “bad habits.”  A habit is just something we do over and over without thinking about it much. 

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible just to “cut out” a habit. The hole in your life left by not doing that behaviour will fill up at light speed. For example, what happens when I say, “For the next minute don’t think about elephants.” I immediately envision elephants of all shapes and sizes! You not only need to eliminate a behaviour, you need to find a substitute behaviour. Instead of not thinking about elephants, I might tell myself to think about kittens.

Keep your plan for change as simple as possible. In fact, three basic steps are all you need.

    •   Write down your plan.

    •   Identify the triggers for the behaviour you want to change in yourself and decide which behaviours you want to substitute.   

    •   Focus on doing the replacement behaviours every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.

Ask your friends and family to help you achieve your goal. Remember, we’re all in this together.