Every year like clockwork we proclaim our best New Year’s intentions as the ball drops.
This will be the best year! We say.
This is the year I will live my best life, be at my fighting weight, start my new career and have a happy love life.
And when the alarm goes off at 6am to start our new running routine….we hit snooze.
More like, maybe never.
Because resolutions are more like wishing upon a star than an effective way to make change in your life.
The grand gesture of large changes fight the way we are behaviorally wired.
When the alarm goes off…rituals trump resolutions every time.
What is a ritual?
Think of a ritual as a well worn, ingrained behavioral pattern that you do without thinking. It is part of who you are, how you have defined the actions that make up you the person, and small habitual patterns that you have likely practiced for years.
It’s something that you do, not something that you try to figure out where you will find the time for doing it.
(Teeth brushing is an easy example but not one likely to get you excited about this theory.)
Yes, if you are a person who is a teeth brusher, you likely do this twice a day without thinking about it. You don’t say to yourself “I really don’t have time to brush my teeth today”.
You just do it.
If you identify yourself as an athletic person, you likely have a running or working out ritual that you do most days. You find the time and have a routine that is ingrained like teeth brushing that you will get your workout in.
It’s who you are- you are a person that works out.
If you are a person who pays their bills on time every month, you have a ritual for bill paying. You likely don’t say to yourself “I don’t have time this month to pay my bills”. You follow your daily, weekly or monthly ritual of bill paying that is ingrained and part of your patterns of behavior.
This is why resolutions don’t work.
Most of the time, a resolution is something that you want to become.
Not something that you see yourself being right now.
Because you view it as a “not yet” part of what makes up you, it is easy to push aside the daily or weekly behaviors needed to bring it to fruition.
It’s not yet you.
So how then, you may ask, does one think of themselves as an athletic person if this is not who they are today?
This is a two part answer: you have to decide that this is who you are now and create a ritual to support it.
You need to behave your way into adopting the new future you into your day and you have to tell yourself that this is you.
In other words, fake it till you make it.
Stop saying “I’m going to be a runner” and replace it with “I am a runner.” Order a subscription to a running magazine. Join a running club or take a running workshop. Go buy running gear. These actions will begin to help you identify as a runner, as in the present. Not sometime in the future.
Then create a daily ritual of running time. This will be optimally the same time every single day for 21 days until it becomes ingrained as a habit. Find 30 minutes on your calendar that you will schedule in your running time, put your new running gear in your bag and plan where you are going to run.
When your scheduled running time pops up on your calendar (this is important) say to yourself “I am a runner and today I am going to run.”
Do not allow your brain to think about if you feel like running today.
You likely won’t.
If you follow the pattern until it becomes a ritual, you still will have days when you don’t feel like running. But because you will begin to identify yourself as a runner, you will do it anyway.
Do not add any other new rituals until this one becomes a habit.
Take the opportunity to tell as many people as you can that you are a runner.
Post a few pictures on social media.
Tell you friends at work.
At the end of 21 days, treat yourself to those fancy new running shoes you were eyeing in your Running magazine.
Because after all, that’s what runners do.