New Year, Same You

Every year starts with the same thing. A motivated and optimistic view of the year ahead. And a big resolution to do something awesome!

So…. how many of those awesome new year resolutions have you kept?

January always seems crazy. It's like everyone I know starts something new.

They exercise. Or blog. Or podcast. Or email. Or YouTube. Or they post on social media. Actually... they almost always post on social media (usually ABOUT the new thing).

Every January is the same, with big resolutions and big action towards those resolutions.

But then by about mid February… things get quiet again.

The excitement of starting something new fades and the hard part - the grind - starts. And that's when that new activity encounters it's first real challenge: day to day life. And, almost inevitably, the new thing can't compete with the juggernaut that is daily living, and eventually becomes something that you "really need to get back into."

And then next year, you do the same thing - but THIS TIME you vow it's going to be different, and you'll actually stick to it (lol). You don't though; this is the cycle that happens EVERY YEAR.

The whole "new year, new me" thing turns out to be "new year, same me" all over again.

And I'm definitely not immune; I still end up giving up on the things I want to do way too easily. Real life is just such a big beast, and unless I truly make something a habit it has no chance of winning out. I'd imagine it's like that for most of us.

The thing is... it's not like these are BAD activities to do. They're usually things that could be pretty life changing if we stick with them.

why do we give up so quickly?

I've been thinking about this a lot, especially in recent times, and I've come up with a few pretty big reasons. And all of them boil down to the same thing:

When the shine of something new fades and when life gets in the way, the new task becomes a grind. And the grind.... well the grind isn't all that attractive and needs some fundamentals in place to be able to keep yourself motivated.

1 - Wrong Reasoning

Probably one of the biggest factors in why motivation disappears when things get boring: you're doing things for the wrong reasons.

So many habits are picked up (especially in marketing) simply because the common advice is that you SHOULD be doing it. But just because the common advice is that you should, doesn't mean it's the right thing for you to do.

Before starting, you need to understand exactly how it would help you and truly believe it will make a difference.

It's probably easier to look at an example. Let's look at creating content.

EVERYONE in marketing seems to preach how important content creation is. In many cases, it is and can make a huge difference.

But you need to understand HOW it will make that difference for YOU.

If you have a targeted niche market, and your leads are primarily people finding your content online, then creating more content gives you more opportunities to get more leads. Makes sense.

But if you get leads by going out into the real world, attending networking events, and getting referrals from referral partners... how does content help you? I mean it might help, but it's also more likely that those leads aren't really going to be looking at your content anyway. So while it can help, you'd need to figure out exactly how, and then see whether the way it will help you is actually attractive enough to warrant doing it.

If you haven't got a clear understanding of how an activity is going to help you with your goals, and are just doing it out of some weird social pressure or expectation, then you're going to struggle to stick with it.

But if you have a clear understanding of how it's going to help and can see exactly how impact will be made, you're much more likely to be able to motivate yourself later.

2 - Difficult or Challenging to do

It might sound pretty obvious, but the harder your task is to do, the less you WANT to do it. We're humans, so we're wired to avoid pain.

What is less obvious until you actually think about it is that it also extends beyond the task itself, to the process of starting that task.

Yeah, I know. That sounds confusing.

As an example:

Obviously something like jogging every morning would be challenging if you've never done it before.

But it gets even MORE challenging if every time you need to do it, you've gotta go hunt down your shoes, find the right shirt, pull your wireless earbuds out of the cupboard, etc etc etc.

It's not huge, it's just extra pain. It isn't only that the task itself is difficult; it's that the process of doing it is difficult too.

And so when you're not feeling super motivated, and looking for reasons not to do this new thing, all those little obstacles add up and to give you those reasons.

To overcome this, we need to smooth out the process.

So using that same example of jogging:

If you are going to be jogging the next morning, perhaps you lay out your clothes and shoes, have your earbuds handy, and get whatever else you need ready in advance. That way, that next morning you can just get up, throw your clothes on, and go.

If you make the process of getting to do the habit easier, there's less friction in the way and you're more likely to actually do it.

3 - Not Fun

I don't know about you, but I'm no masochist. If I'm not having a good time, I'm WAY more likely to stop whatever I'm doing to find something else to do.

And I'm feeling pretty confident that most people are the same. Or at least, similar enough that if they're not enjoying their "new habit" then they're more likely to stop doing it.

It's human nature. As I said in the last point, we're wired to avoid pain, and in today's connected age being bored is about as painful as it gets.

If you want to stick to a new habit, make it more fun.

I used to jog, but I haaaaaaaaated jogging (still do). When I was doing it, and started to get frustrated, I'd try challenge myself to make it more fun. I'd try jog to the next tree, then I'd see if I could make it to the tree after that, and the street sign after that, and so on and so forth.

I'd keep setting small, achievable goals, and I'd feel rewarded by achieving that goal. That would distract me from how much I hated jogging, and made it more fun.

And it isn't that hard to do the same with any new habit; just figure out how you can make it more fun for yourself.

It might be by turning it into a game, like I did with the jogging.

It might be by giving yourself a reward for achieving things as part of that habit.

It could even be as simple as seeing how long you can keep a streak going.

How you make it fun is up to you, but without making things enjoyable, you're way more likely to give it up.

4 - No accountability

Sticking to a new habit is challenging, and it's even more challenging when you try do it solo.

At various points in my life, I've been really active with exercise and working out. There were times when I'd consistently work out for ages, and there were times I wasn't all that regular with my exercise.

The difference for me? When I had a "gym buddy" I'd work out religiously.

I mean, unless you're a bit of a sociopath, you probably don't enjoy letting people down.

In my case, having someone else rely on me to go to the gym meant I'd be there. I didn't want to let them down because they'd be frustrated needing to work out on their own. And I knew they'd also tease me a lot about being lazy and weak, which I wanted to avoid.

Someone was holding me accountable, and that kept me going.

But on the flip side, when it was just me, I'd often skip days for any number of reasons that sounded valid in my head at the time. There was no real consequence of skipping my work out. And my habit went from working out regularly to skipping workouts regularly. Not really the result I wanted.

We can use this same principle to help us stick to our habits.

Rather than just going and doing it, find somehow that you can add a level of accountability.

This will depend on the type of activity, but some ideas:

  • You could join a group related to the activity, and do it together
  • You could have a activity buddy that does it with you
  • You can have someone that you check in with daily about the activity (aka an accountability partner)

Although that might not be enough on it's on. There needs to be a consequence of failure.

Sometimes, letting the group/person down is enough. Sometimes it isn't (especially if they're just going to let you off the hook).

You may want to make a big public declaration like so many people do (although that doesn't seem to keep people going), or you may set yourself a penalty of some sort, or you could make your activity public (if failing publicly is a deterrent).

As long as there's a consequence of not taking action, you'll be more likely to keep going with your activity.

How do we stick to a new habit?

In order to stick with any new habit, whether it's a new year's resolution or something you start randomly:

  1. Make sure it MATTERS (and you're not just doing it because you think you're meant to)
  2. Remove friction points in actually doing it
  3. Make sure it's fun and enjoyable to do (make it a game, or reward yourself)
  4. Get some accountability in place to force you to stick

If you can do that, you'll find yourself more likely to stick things out even when the shine wears off. And maybe, just maybe, next year you'll be reaping the reward of a year of sticking to that awesome habit.

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