Make each moment a new beginning

There are two kinds of people in the world:

1. Those who make lists.
2. Those who don’t.

We often hear that goal-setting is linked to higher achievement and that written goals provide a clear road map. So we pressure ourselves to go big or go home. Not surprisingly, these big expectations are often unrealistic, and that’s a recipe for disappointment and self-criticism.              

Having a list makes you feel less anxious

As the days blend together for many people living in lockdowns or working from home, crossing things off a to-do list can feel even more satisfying. To-do lists can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure, and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day. 

Most people will have given up on their New Year’s resolutions by President’s Day. 

Why we often fail?

Usually, the reason is that we went about setting up our goals the wrong way.  Instead of trying to make big changes, we should think small — as in tiny behaviors that can become habits. The trick is to re-frame the to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.

It’s not a wish list

Research on the psychology of goal-making has revealed that an unfinished goal causes interference with other tasks you’re trying to achieve. But simply making a plan to facilitate that goal, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mindset it aside to focus on other things. When are were unable to finish the goal, we can just “offload it” — you can just make a specific plan for how to attain it to get it to stop occupying that mental space

Key to change is setting your bar low

Use the Tiny Habit method. The harder the behavior, the more motivation you need. Lower your expectations! If a behavior is easy to do, it doesn’t require a whole bunch of motivation. Make your goal so simple that it’s almost like you have no excuse not to do it. Do not make a goal to clean the whole house. Just think small and set a goal to pick up one room; as you keep going, maybe you will accomplish more than you hoped for. If you want to study a foreign language, set a goal of 1 or 2 words per day; if you want to do pushups, start with one or two pushups while waiting for the water to get hot in the shower.  Another important step is incorporating your habit where it naturally fits your lifestyle. (As in the previous example, there is also an empty time to wait for the shower to get hot). That’s why getting up at 4.30 to go running may not stick. Or, I want to read 5 pages of a book on my lunch hour because one assumes there is always a lunch hour.  And then to wire in the habit, you fire off a positive emotion. You are hooked now! And that makes it easy to actually achieve success.

Now celebrate

An important part of Tiny Habits involves learning to have some self-compassion and change the narrative inside our heads to adopt positive self-talk. Most people are too skeptical and self-critical and don’t take time to celebrate – or even mentally process their life successes. For most of us, if we make a list of self-criticism, the list is long and rich, but the perceived accomplishment list is very short.          

Every moment is a new opportunity

To borrow from a Buddhist tradition, remember that every day (even every moment) of your life is a new beginning, not just the first day of the year. You can make Daily Resolutions, not just New Year Resolutions. Every day, restate your goals and your intentions for your new, happy and meaningful life.  

Library Resources:

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by BJ Fogg, PhD.

Format: print book, regular and large-print options

Hello, Habits: A Minimalist’s Guide to a Better Life by Fumio Sasaki; translated by Eriko Sugita.

Format: print book

The Science of Mindfulness and Self-compassion: How to Build New Habits to Transform Your Life by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and Shauna Shapiro, Ph.D.

Formats: audiobook

Magda Born

Community Resources Librarian

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave

Kansas City KS 66101

913-295-8250 ext 1103