The Real Power of “New”: Practicing New Habits for Maximum Effectiveness
Broken any New Year’s resolutions yet?
Even people who regularly moan “But I just can’t change” get caught up in the turn-of-the-year spirit and spend the last week of December making lists of everything they’ll do better. Self-improvement venues from Weight Watchers to Alcoholics Anonymous to neighborhood gyms see a spike in new members every January.
Yet, before January turns into February, nine people out of ten are back in their old ruts, their New Year’s resolutions all but forgotten.
It Doesn’t Have to Come Just Once a Year
The trouble is we think of January 1 as having some unique magical power. Not to denigrate celebrations or resolutions: better they should come once a year than never at all. But one day out of 365, or even one week out of 52, is a rather short period of time to carry the weight of a full year’s progress.
And hopefully, if you haven’t already committed to the “get sober” goal, you aren’t going to shrug off “missing my chance this time around” and wait 11 more months before making that new start!
Still, whether the first steps of change are taken on January 1 or August 14, more than those first steps are needed to carry through to a goal. Breakthroughs aren’t really entities unto themselves—they’re preceded by weeks or months of consistent work. And it’s all too tempting to give up on that work before the breakthrough point is reached.
Here’s a secret to arm you against that temptation: every day, every moment, is a new start in itself.
You Didn’t Really Blow It
Many people treat change as a one-time deal, or at least a one-chance-per-day deal. If they slip, they throw out the whole idea of change because they figure they’ve blown it already. They’d do better to consider the moment following the slip as the first moment of the rest of their lives, and realize they’re free to start “new” any time and any number of times.
If you fall into relapse (it happens to at least half of recovering addicts at one time or another), don’t waste time berating yourself or thinking you were destined to fail all along. Make a fresh new start immediately: contact your support network and begin implementing the first steps back to full recovery.
And notwithstanding the strength of the momentum that leads to relapse in the first place, it isn’t impossible to implement a new start even midway down the slippery slope. Sitting down at the restaurant bar or even tasting the first sip needn’t make you helpless to walk away or call for help. If you remember you can make a new start at any time, you can always find a way of escape.
Hints for Keeping Your Resolve Fresh
Whether your goal is simple sobriety or some more proactive achievement, here are some hacks to keep it from getting “old” and dying of neglect:
- Write it down or put it on a vision board. Put it where you’ll see it often, moving it every two weeks to keep up the “new” feeling.
- Let yourself dream in detail of what your life will look like when the goal is achieved. Visualize it with all your senses.
- Don’t worry about numbers, as in “it takes 21 days to establish a new habit.” Counting “days to go” will only blunt the edge of that “new every morning” feeling and tempt you to worry unnecessarily about your progress.
- Share your life regularly with others, and encourage them to share theirs—hearing about what’s new in their lives will enhance the newness in your own.
- Set small “en route” goals. Whenever you reach one, celebrate with something you’ve always wanted to do or haven’t done in a while.
- Have daily rituals and mantras that emphasize fresh starts.
Blessings for many new days to come!