Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

new years resolutions

Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

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