I know it’s a little late to say “Happy New Year”, and perhaps overly optimistic considering what the past two years have shown us but the good news is that those years are over. Starting now, it’s up to us to move past the inconveniences of the past and look to the future, embracing new opportunities and making better decisions.
As someone graduating this spring, there’s never been a better time to give how I think and act a great, big overhaul in preparation for taking my first steps into the working world.
Of course, it’s easy to say all that and then not do anything. In fact, making false New Year’s resolutions is as much of a tradition as New Year’s itself.
Sure, we all say we want to get in shape and start eating right, but how many of us are actually willing to make the sacrifices necessary to facilitate long-term, positive change in our lives? Especially based on some promise we tell our friends and family or, at most, write on a piece of paper.
I know there’s a better way and I’d like to share with you my method- not for making resolutions that promise change, but building habits that make change.
Most people agree that brushing your teeth is a good habit, as well as showering frequently and changing your underwear more than weekly. The same could be said of waking up early, exercising, avoiding unhealthy food and getting your work done on time. Beyond the positive influence these habits have on your hygiene, health and social life, they impact something else on us that I believe separates those who succeed from those who tend to fail, regardless of any talent or perceived privilege- discipline.
Discipline means that, rather than remembering and forcing yourself to do these tasks, you do them instinctually. They simply become a part of your day, as easy and as natural as grabbing your phone.
Ask any Olympic athlete and they’re ready to tell you the same. No matter what plans they have that day, they start and end the same way, because they’ve been disciplined to do so, through the building of healthy habits.
In other words, if you do something the same way frequently enough, you start doing it automatically; it becomes second nature.
Imagine if it became second nature for all of us to eat right and exercise every day; there’s no telling what we’d be capable of then. The only reason most of us don’t is because it’s so hard to start. And the reason it’s so hard to start is because we envision such changes all at once; rather than saying “I’m going to the gym today,” we say to ourselves “I’m going to the gym every day for the rest of my life starting tomorrow.” That’s an insane and unrealistic goal for anybody, and it inevitably breaks down into “Well I could go every other day. Take off weekends. Eh, there’s always next year,” and the cycle repeats.
If you want to start doing something every day, try doing it once. Today, if possible. Don’t even think about what you’ll do tomorrow; worry about it then. If you get that far, do it again tomorrow. Keep that up long enough, and eventually, you’ll be doing it every day, effortlessly.
That is the magic of discipline; the ability to turn an impossible goal into a daily routine, with positive repercussions that permeate everything you do. It doesn’t need to be a big change either; just going to bed at the same time every night will put you on track to develop better habits in the future.
We’ve all heard it said: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Forget about those thousand miles, and just take that first step first. Before you know it, you’ll be running.
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