As we reach the halfway point of 2022, I’ve decided to look back to the start of the year and think about the New Year’s resolutions that I established way back in January. Each year, I set fairly standard resolutions for myself, work hard to achieve them for the first month of the year, and then slowly let them slip away so that by June they have long been broken and forgotten. For me, all New Year’s resolutions, no matter how big or small, are very hard to reach because there is no set method to achieve them. Past years’ goals have ranged from “eat more vegetables” to “be more productive,” but without a plan to actually implement these changes in my life, I become overwhelmed and generally lose motivation quickly.
This year, I didn’t have any grandiose resolutions that I was passionate about in 2022, so I wasn’t planning on having any true New Year’s resolutions. However, a few days into the year, I was listening to a podcast called “The Science of Making & Breaking Habits” by the Huberman Lab, and I was instantly inspired by the discussed methods of habit formation. I’ve heard of the myth that habits are formed by repeating an action every day for 21 consecutive days, and I’ve learned from personal experience that this is not quite true, but I was intrigued by the way that Dr. Huberman introduced a specific 21-day plan to establish new habits. In this plan, you are tasked to write out 6 habits that you wish to form – however, each day, you only aim to complete 4 of the 6 tasks. There are a few aspects to this system which make habit formation much more attainable than your typical broad goal or resolution.
- The habits that you write down must be specific and measurable. For example, instead of saying “read more,” you could say that you want to read a book for 20 minutes each night.
- Your goals must be attainable compared to your current situation. Sometimes when setting goals for ourselves, we picture what we consider to be the “ideal” scenario, and we set unachievable goals that become frustrating and overwhelming. For example, if you have a difficult time staying clean and organized, it won’t be very productive to set a goal of deep-cleaning your whole space each night. Instead, you could aim to spend 10 minutes in the evening tidying up before bed.
- A key to this system is that there are no punishments for not completing a task for the day, hence why you aim to complete only 4 of the 6 habits each day. Additionally, if one day you only do 3 of your tasks, you don’t need to make up for it the next day by doing 5 tasks. This allows for flexibility and freedom from the guilt that usually comes with breaking a resolution – each day is a new day.
At the end of the 21 days, you can go back and look at which habits you completed most frequently, and which habits were hard to implement. I think that it is helpful to reflect on the impacts that completing these tasks have on you – for example, one of my goals was to read for 20 minutes before bed instead of looking at my phone, and I found that I was able to wake up more easily in the morning (plus I found books that I really love!). Then, over the next 21 days, you continue with your daily tasks, but you do not record which ones you have completed. You also do not set any new goals for yourself. This allows for you to go about life, implementing your new habits without pressure or expectation.
I wanted to develop a better daily routine for myself in 2022. These were my 6 original “goal” habits:
- Drink water with each meal
- Spend at least 1 hour exercising outside (walking, biking, yoga, etc.)
- Tidy up for 10-minutes in the morning and evening
- Incorporate a vegetables into dinner
- Read for 20 minutes before bed without my phone
- Practice mindfulness for 5 minutes each day
By the end of the total 42 days, I was generally doing about 4 or 5 of my tasks each consecutive day, and now, in June, I can truly say that many of these have become habits that are second-nature. These habits have helped me to feel much more balanced, and I don’t feel guilty when I may skip-out on reading some nights or feel too stressed to tidy up before work, since no habits are perfect and they don’t need to be!
For anyone interested in simple, attainable ways to set goals, I highly recommend trying out the 21-step method of habit formation, described by Dr. Huberman at time 1:18:22 in this podcast: https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-of-making-and-breaking-habits/.