Looking Beyond Resolutions: Building Sustainable Habits And Rituals In 2023
Every new year evokes a desire within us to become better versions of ourselves. Most of us plan out our New Year’s resolutions and start off with a flourish, ready to tackle the year head-on. Unfortunately, studies show that nearly 80% of people fail to stick to their resolutions by the end of February. Yikes! So how do you make sure you don’t abandon yours?
It all boils down to one thing - intention. You really don’t have to wait for a special day to implement changes in your life. The right approach is to look beyond New Year’s resolutions and work on building habits and rituals that stay with you for life.
What’s the difference between habits, routines, and rituals?
We use habits and routines interchangeably, but they are two very distinct terms. Habits are actions that require little or no conscious effort, whereas routines are deliberate behaviors that are frequently performed. Over a period of time, routines evolve into habits (i.e. they become automated). Both of these are motions that are done for the sake of the action itself.
Conversely, the term ritual is generally used to describe something mystic or ceremonial, which may even be considered far removed from reality. However, if we focus on the true essence of the word by ignoring any additional connotations, it’s easy to see how rituals can help elevate our routine and be incorporated into our daily lives. At their core, rituals are practices that are performed with an actual sense of purpose. They revolve around intention - incorporating mindfulness and a real sense of purpose to turn even the most simple acts into something worth cherishing. In fact, an action as minute as bathing can turn into a ritual with this mindset.
How to build habits and rituals that last?
Follow these strategies to build routines that stick:-
1. Choose an identity-based reason
If you set your goals based on an outcome, you probably will not be able to stick with them for long. On the other hand, if you truly want to change a behavior, you should -
Create a version of yourself that will achieve that outcome, and
Believe in this identity and prove it with small triumphs.
For example, if you want to build up your strength, you might choose to adopt the identity of a person that trains 3-5 days a week. By starting with a simple routine thrice a week, you’ll slowly move one step closer to your goal with each successful day.
2. Start with the easiest form of the routine
Motivation is like a muscle - it ebbs and flows throughout the day. The more you utilize your willpower, the more it gets depleted throughout the day. Start small when building a habit. If you want to implement a skincare routine, don’t commence with a full regimen. Instead, begin with cleansing your face before bedtime. This is a far easier task to implement which helps us practice regularity before moving on to other steps.
3. Improve by tiny increments and break up into smaller bits
Instead of trying to do it all perfectly right from the start (which leads to the inevitable crash and burn), gradually seek to improve over time. 1 percent increments may not be noticeable, but they accumulate faster than you realize.
Once you notice that the daily task you have begun has grown, break it up into smaller chunks. For example, a 30-minute walk can be broken down into two 15-minute segments. This approach will help you sustain your rituals in the long run.
4. Your failures don’t define your self worth
Life can throw you a curveball, and a missed routine can make you feel horrible. It doesn’t matter if you miss one time - but try not to miss twice. Plan for days and emergencies when you won’t be able to execute your ritual. Consistency plays a far bigger role in habit formation than an all-or-nothing mindset.
On the other hand, we all sometimes face situations that are beyond our control. You may feel disheartened if you have made significant progress with your rituals and find yourself falling off track. Make sure to treat yourself with kindness and empathy, and never consider yourself a failure. Gently recalibrate and revive your intentions - it’s far more sustainable to use this approach to get back on track than to treat yourself with harshness.
These simple steps will help you establish rituals that can accompany you throughout your life.
Pro tip: Break free from the hustle mentality and prioritize mindfulness. A lot can be achieved by putting yourself and your sense of self-worth first.