It’s that time of year again when loads of people make good intentioned resolutions for self improvement. Around this time last year I did a series of posts about my research into self improvement strategies. Here is a quick refresher.

It’s about habits not willpower

I recently read an online conversation. A person was claiming it was impossible to be a healthy weight forever. The claim was that it would require constant willpower all the time forever until you die. I can understand were the person gets this idea. This person has probably tried some sort of crash or fad diet. They had the best of intentions and only managed a few days, maybe even held out for a whole week but the temptations just ended up being to strong. They looked a lifetime, years and years, of every day tiring themselves out resisting temptations and gave up. The good news is this is not remotely true. If every single time you got up early to go work out it was as hard as the very first time, no one would ever work out for more than a month. My number one message to someone starting out on a self improvement quest; It will get easier.

Make Your Plan and Execute It

We will achieve long term improvement by making small incremental changes that can be maintained.  I’ll use my quest to get out of debt as our example. First, we come up with our big goal.  I am going to pay off all my credit card debt. Now that we have a big picture goal we need to divide that into smaller attainable goals. I will pay off 1/3 of my debt by… I will have it half paid off at.. etc. After we have decided on some goals, we need to come up with what you need to do to achieve those goals. I need to consistently bring in more money than I spend and use the excess to pay off my debt.

At this point we have to think of the practical steps you can take to reach our goals. I will increase my income by taking a second job. I will reduce my expenditures by tracking my expenses and then cutting out excess spending. For earning more money I made a list of what time I had available for extra work and then thought about what skills and tools I had to make money. I had a car so I could do food delivery. I had time on the weekends and skills I could use. I noticed I spent a lot of money eating our so I could reduce the number of days I went out to eat for lunch and dinner.

We take this information and make a very specific action point that we will make a habit. I will bring my lunch to work every day except for one day a week. We then spend weeks working on bringing lunch to work and building the new habit of not eating out. Once we have established the new habit we move onto the next. If later down the road we find that we are spending too much money eating out, we concentrate for a couple of weeks on returning to the proper habit.

Most big improvements in our lives are just the summation of all the little decisions and choices we make.