Building new habits in 2014

Everybody–especially the people that don’t admit it–wants to become a better, more successful version of themselves. The specifics vary from person to person, but it always boils down to two things: building good habits and eliminating bad ones.

Looking at the big picture of self transformation is scary. Most of us have a pretty concrete vision of how we’d like to change–quit smoking, eat less fast food, write more, exercise regularly–and regularly attempt to make these changes. Many set these goals as their new year’s resolutions, put real effort in for a couple weeks or months, then fall off the bandwagon. They set the same goals, year after year, never making more than minimal progress towards becoming the person they want to be.

There are all kinds of reasons why people fail to make the changes they so desperately want and need in their lives, but one of the biggest is that they try to make all these changes at once. Both building new habits and eliminating old ones is hard work, and you can’t do everything in a year. Becoming the person you want to be is a long, hard journey and trying to tackle all the changes at once will simply overwhelm you, making you give up. You’ll end up starting over and taking much longer than if you took the slow approach in the first place.

Yes, some people change best by tackling it all at once, but most of us simply can’t do it this way. We need to break it down and do it one step at a time.

I know this better than anyone. Every year I set out with incredibly lofty goals, and I never accomplish all of them. I end up accomplishing most of my writing goals, but none of the non-writing goals. Some years it’s the exact opposite.

This year marks the final end of my long school career, and so I’ve decided to concentrate the year on building good habits. In February I’ll be able to work on my writing full time for the first time, and it’s going to take a lot of work to build myself a strict schedule that will allow me to meet all my goals. So I decided that each month this year I will focus on establishing a different habit every month–since common theories say it takes thirty days to develop a habit–so that by the end of the year I’m operating at maximum productivity. Most of these habits are writing related, though some are more focused on health and self care.

It’s time to take charge of your life and to accept that you can’t change everything at once. You may want to end this year a completely different person than you were when you started it, but you can’t become that person overnight. All you can do is take one step every day to get closer to being that person, so this time next year you can smile and say you’ve done everything you set out to do in 2014.

What habits do you need to build or eliminate this year?