If you’re anything like most people you probably set a few goals for the new year and if you’re anything like most people (statistically at least) you’re probably already struggling to stick to them.
However, the problem doesn’t lie with your lack of motivation or willpower, it lies with those goals.
You see, when it comes down to the battle in your head between future you - who wants to lose weight or get better at golf - and present you - who wants to sit on the sofa watching the golf channel eating bacon butties (sorry, British thing!) - present you will always win because the future is a dark and murky place where anything can happen.
In short, willpower sucks!
What you need instead are new or altered processes that become part of your daily routine (in other words, you just do them - no willpower required) and get you closer to your goal. What you need are new habits.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit" - Aristotle
The key to making new habits stick is to pick one small habit, that adding to your life every day, week or even month, will get you closer to you goal. It could be to spend 20 minutes practicing your putting everyday, to do a proper warm-up before each round you play, to go to bed a half hour early or eat protein with every meal so you recover better - whatever it is that will help you on the path to your goal.
The key is to only add one habit at a time and make it as small as possible as it needs to be something that you will always that do regardless of willpower. Focus on that habit and only that habit until it becomes just that - a habit, that you do unconsciously without thinking.
Note: Research suggests it can actually take anywhere from 10 days to 3 months for a new habit to stick depending on the individual and the habit, but the 28 day rule you’re probably familiar with is touted so often as it is the average time takes for most people to develop a new habit.
Once you have that habit down you can identify another to ether stack on top of that habit or to add somewhere else.
For example, if you are practicing your putting for 20 minutes a day you may also add you will practice chipping or a swing drill for 10 minutes a day after the putting. Or you could add an entirely new habit to your routine - say taking a break from work and sitting at the desk every few hours to walk or do some postural corrective exercises for 2-3 minutes, thereby improving your posture and your ability to rotate well when you go to the range later that day/ week.
This is slow and steady progress yes, but still 'on the wagon’ so to speak 6 months down the line beats the hell out of the familiar new years resolution story of tried to live a perfect lifestyle in which I changed all my habits from January 1st, started to fail by the 7th and had given up completely by the end of the month. Plus you’ll be surprised at how just a few small habit changes can add up to real progress.
Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a ripple effect that produces a number of positive changes with you having only consciously acted to change one habit. They are really powerful as they essentially hack the habit forming process and create the exponential growth that means radical progress from just a few small habit changes.
The problem is identifying those keystone habits as they will be different from individual to
individual and depending on what their goal is.
Keystone habits are habits that change your self perception thereby leading you to make other changes in your lifestyle as a result of seeing yourself differently. For example, making your bed every day correlates with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. This is thought to be as this leads you to having a sense of accomplishment to start your day as well as you seeing yourself as a more productive and organised individual.
Another proven example is exercise. When people exercise they often get other benefits such as eating better, handling mental and emotional stress better, sleeping better and being more productive at work. OK yes, I’m biased here, but there is also plenty of peer reviewed unbiased evidence that show exercise is a keystone habit for many people.
I can also tell you from my experience working with hundreds of amateur golfers - those with 9-5 jobs, families and the busy lifestyles - that exercise can be a great keystone habit for them too. Golfers who start a fitness program not only see the benefits mentioned above, but also a change in their perception of themselves as golfers. They seem to start to see themselves as a serious golfer who is willing to go the extra mile to improve their game. As a result you see them start to practice more diligently, use mental techniques such as visualisation and begin to take nutrition and sleep seriously so as they recover better.
Our online coaching services are rooted in a habit based approach and identifying and those keystone that will help you reach your individual goals, if you want to know more I highly recomend you take a look at our online coaching page.
The power of habit, Charles Dhuigg
The one thing, Gary Keller
You are not so smart, David McRaney