January 19th is Quitter’s Day. What does that mean, you ask? Research conducted by Strava using over 800 million user-logged activities in 2019 predicts the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year's Resolution is January 19th. So, get ready to quit. Seriously, 80% of people will quit those big plans they crafted for 2021. Odds are, you’re one of them.
In 2020 I developed a habit of reading about habits. It was habitual, and I couldn’t break it. I read about habits from Duhigg (Habits), Jogg (Tiny Habits), Clear (Atomic Habits), Dean (Making Habits, Breaking Habits), Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Vanderkam (What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast), Canfield (The Power of Focus), and Pinker (How the Mind Works). And, as any fanatic would, I also took in dozens of habit articles from HBR, The McKinsey Report, and Medium.
All these books are filled with insightful information for someone looking to tackle their peskiest habits. Unfortunately, reading a 300-page book won’t cure your habit; if it could, we’d all be svelte gods and goddesses who wake at 5:00 AM, eat kale for breakfast, perform with gusto at work, and then come home to enjoy a nice glass of water, a pleasant chat with our toddlers and a goodnight kiss by 10:00 PM. Welcome to the real world, where that rarely happens. However, there are the few occasions when a powerful habit evaporates overnight. It’s not often, but the stories of overnight success are common enough to make it a possibility, and not a unicorn.
What’s the difference between our logical, methodical attempts and the overnight transformations? Emotion. While we all like to think of ourselves as logic-driven beings, we’re not, emotions typically win the day. Looking for proof? Read Daniel Kahneman’s cleverly articulated thoughts in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Given our species’ predisposition, and the associated disadvantage it leaves us in, we need to hack the system and use these emotions to our advantage. How? Build emotion into your game plan.
Let me show you what I mean. You’re interested in losing weight. Great, get out the Whole 30 book and plan your menu, but first, sit down and get in touch with the emotions around this decision. Why do you want to lose weight? What implication does being overweight have on your life? How does your weight impact your relationships, your kids, your energy, your work, and the internal emotional damage you inflict on yourself. Shed some tears because the only way you’ll stay the course is if that decision to get healthy is anchored in the emotion of the decision. Feel the struggle at its core. Imagine your life, at your present weight, for the rest of your life. How does that feel? Are you happy with the outcome?
Now, flip the switch. Imagine your life – feel your life – trim, healthy, energized, and vibrant. Use these two complementary emotions as the bedrock of your plan as these two emotions will trump any planner or journal you’ll keep. These emotions are where you need to turn when you’re debating the next chip vs. carrot, not your journal or planner.
This approach can be applied to any behavior change you’re looking to make in your life, from managing your emotions with your kids to improving your leadership at work. Hack your system and use your God given emotions to your advantage to finally, once and for all, change your behaviors.
Use your emotions to catalyze those plans you crafted last week, this week, and the next. Don’t let another year go by wishing you’d stuck to the plan. You have 8 days until the 19th – will you join the ranks on Quitter’s Day or will you shed a tear or two and break through? And if you need a coach to help you along the way, please reach out.