Time for a midyear checkup on those resolutions you committed to back in January! Yes, you still have time to make them happen. Whether your kryptonite is a lack of willpower or a too-rigid plan, you can overcome it with a new approach.
1. Pinpoint Your Motivation
If you're having trouble getting traction on a goal, chances are your primary reason for setting it—your “why”—isn’t compelling enough. In order for it to compete with daily stresses like work deadlines and school events, your purpose has to be present-focused. “People who identify an immediate benefit—greater energy or less stress—will be far more successful than those with the future-focused objective of something like weight loss,” says Michelle Segar, PhD, author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.
2. Prepare to Resist
Let’s say you’re trying to cut back on sugar, but you know the doughnuts in the office break room will test your self-control. Strengthen your resolve by visualizing how you’ll respond with “Even if” scenarios: Even if I’m tired and stressed out, I’ll eat something healthy like fruit. “This mental rehearsal literally prepares the brain and the neural pathways to keep you on track,” says Neil Fiore, PhD, author of The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play.
3. Make It Routine
We develop habits by latching onto a cue (such as time of day) and a reward (like relaxing on the couch), says Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity. If your goal is to meditate every morning but you’re usually out the door before you remember, experiment to pinpoint the cue and reward that will encourage your desired behavior. For instance, place a meditation pillow where you’ll see it first thing when you wake up (cue), and turn on your favorite music immediately afterward (reward).
Cone or curl? If you’re the queen of exercise excuses, join a gym. Health club members are more physically active than non-members.
4. Seek the Truth
When a negative inner voice tries to talk you out of your weekly volunteer commitment, write down the arguments that run through your head. Ask yourself: “Is this fact or fiction?” Recognizing that a thought is fiction leads you to the choice of acting on it—or against it, says transformational teacher Kute Blackson, author of You. Are. The. One. If you choose to counter those thoughts, you’ll systematically weaken their power. “Each time you make that decision,” says Blackson, “it becomes easier.”
5. Voice Your Support
Don’t rely on a friend to help you get back on the wagon. Instead, use positive conversations of your own design. In the struggle to eat mindfully, for example, record yourself speaking one affirmative message that you can listen to before every meal (“I want to nourish my body and feel good about myself”). “You basically coach and support yourself to make the choices that take care of you,” says Zen teacher Cheri Huber.
6. Tailor the Plan
Remember that strategies that are successful for someone else may not work for you. “There are many, many ways to achieve habits, and we succeed when we do it in the way that’s right for us,” says Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. For example, many experts like to advise exercising first thing in the morning. But if you’re a night owl, chances are you’ll find it easier to maintain a workout routine if you go to the gym in the evening. Consider ways you can tweak an approach to best suit you.