For many of us, January represents a fresh start— 2022 is over and 2023 is a chance for us to let go of past mistakes, envision new goals, and be the person we've meant to be all along.
But all you need to do is think about every other new year to know that the January energy fades over time. It's hard to sustain the motivation to make fundamental changes in your life— but it's not impossible. Your story isn't written yet, and these five strategies can help you shape your own narrative.
Focus on systems. The first step toward change is building systems that will help you succeed even when your motivation is nonexistent. No one can live in a state of constant motivation; we're all going to contend with sleepless nights, illness, boredom, and a million other obstacles that deflate motivation. To prepare for these times, think about some of the most frequent barriers you face in your day-to-day life, and brainstorm possible solutions. And then brainstorm back-up solutions. And, finally, implement the system that will allow you to succeed. For instance, if your goal is to eat healthier, you might choose to prepare your meals in advance so you won't resort to take-out. And during a less busy week, you'll prepare extra meals to store in the freezer for those times when you're unable to meal prep. This is a system that does not rely on constant motivation.
Embrace habit stacking. Habit stacking means pairing a new habit with an existing habit. For instance, if you'd like to start an exercise routine, you could hop on the treadmill during your favorite television program. Or, if you'd like to be more organized, you could add 10 minutes of daily planning into your morning coffee ritual. Think about what habits you would like to develop and where they could fit into your existing routine. These habits will become part of your larger systems of success.
Observe the people who have what you want. Embracing a new narrative about ourselves is a little easier if someone else is modeling it. Look within your circles of friends, family, and community for people who inspire you, and observe their habits and choices. Identify useful characteristics and strategies that can help you on our own journey.
Keep challenging yourself. Once you feel you've mastered one habit, try another. If you find yourself backsliding, challenge yourself to start again— every setback presents the challenge of identifying a problem and finding a solution. Finding new ways to engage with your goals will keep you focused and entertained, warding off monotony and burnout. Excuse the cliché, but remember that you didn't come this far to only come this far!
Avoid the sunk-cost fallacy. When we pour a lot of time, energy, and/or money into a project, we have a tendency to think that we are eternally invested in it instead of knowing when to let go. To avoid stubbornly clinging to old dreams, we must continually audit how we choose to spend our time and energy to make sure that effort aligns with our values and goals. It's equally important to revisit our goals regularly to understand how they may have shifted or changed over time.
With these strategies in mind, you should be able to harness your new year energy and carry it forward throughout 2023. For more tips and ideas, check out the Storywork Guide to Habits that Spark New Life.