Each new year, we start with good intentions. Before too long, the new year becomes the old year. We do not change, and our bad habits grow and expand. After all, if we survive with the bad habits, why not do more?
When change does not stick, we go deeper into the bad habits. After all, bad habits feel good, but only for a short time, so we add other bad habits to gain another short-term feel-good moment or two. Bad habits snowball more quickly than good ones. While the best outcome is mediocrity, the worst outcome is no personal growth, more loneliness, and more churn.
Bad Habits Keep the Old Year Weighing on Us
As time wears on, our bad habits catch up with us. Change may be hard, but falling deep into bad habits creates a longer, more challenging recovery. From life to leadership, bad habits have damaging impacts.
- Little to sporadic exercise leads to be health issues (e.g., heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes)
- Leading in the same way results in stagnation, seeing every new problem with the same tired solution.
- Never developing meaningful relationships means feeling stuck and a shrinking circle of friends and, maybe a growing circle of bad influencers.
- Relying on bad habits of drinking, drugs, and smoking lead to long recovery processes, health problems, and failed relationships.
With just two days into the new year, this sounds discouraging, and it is. We need to wake-up and grab ahold of positive change fervently as if it is our last chance of living and leading with purpose.
New Year Overcomes Old Year
For the new year to overtake the old year, a few words converted to action come to mind. They include Diligence, Self-Control, and Resiliency.
Select a one or two smaller, better habits to adopt and then practice them each day. Examples include:
- Eating fruit instead of chips
- Reading the Atlantic Monthly instead of People magazine
- Going to the gym for 30 minutes, 4 times a week
- Scheduling 1-to-1 conversations with your direct reports every other week with all electronics turned off
One of my new habits is to read The Daily Stoic – one page a day.
Persistent work in changing a behavior pays positive life and leadership dividends. Doing so builds a solid life and leadership foundation to survive the good times along with the dips.
Diligence requires self-control. Change can be more fun when a community of friends are involved, holding each other accountable. However, the reality is change only happens when an individual exhibits the self-control to stay on track.
In my experience, no magical answer exists to keeping self-control other than controlling your urges.
- When wanting to give your strong opinion or dominate a conversation, sit up and listen attentively and quietly.
- When reaching for an unhealthy snack, walk around the block.
- When your mind tricks you into a growing thought of just skipping the gym today, grab your keys and go.
- When negative thoughts grow, we need to discern what matters and release what does not.
Self-control delivers real, positive change. Develop your self-control muscles by using them. Your colleagues, family members, friends, and fellow citizens will appreciate the better you.
My self-control will be reinforced by the snacks I select. I will snack less and, when I do, the healthy alternatives will be what I go for.
Change fails. We revert to a bad habit. We say something we should not have. We do something we know better than to do. We need to recover. Recovery takes resiliency, the ability to bounce back stronger than before.
Resiliency relates to self-control. Both require a strong backbone and a mind that can release things that do not matter and engage what makes us a better person.
Resiliency is important when unexpected bad things happen. Bad things will happen, and we need to deal with what comes our way.
Resiliency is important when we do bad things. We need to recover and do better next time. The catch is this: When we do bad things, we eventually run out of second chances. We can still recover, but fewer people will believe us. We need the self-awareness to realize this fact, and we need the self-control to stop ourselves the second or third time.
- Exercise builds resiliency and self-control.
- Getting out into nature builds resiliency and self-awareness.
- Meditation builds thoughtful resiliency.
My plan is to get outside more than before and see the wonders of nature and incorporate more daily meditative practices.
Keep Your New Year Fresh and Outpacing the Old Year
As we seek change in who we are, how we look and feel, and how we build teams and pursue results, we need to:
- Be diligent in our new habits
- Use our self-control wisely and often, steering ourselves in the best direction
- Develop our resiliency to bounce back and make many more good choices to overwhelm the urges that may bury us
No magic to lasting change exists. We just need to rise up to our challenge.
We need three words to set our tone and intention. We also need three words that strengthen our resolve to continue in our intended direction. Together, good change may stick. The personal change formula becomes:
3 words of intention X 3 words of character = Lasting positive change
Character matters and keeps our intentions activated in the right direction.
What word converted to action keeps your new year from becoming the old year?