By Alena Hilbig
New year, new me! As January approaches, many of us feel the urge to break free from the old routines and adopt new healthy habits.
I want to stop saying yes to every new project at work, stop procrastinating difficult discussions with my colleague, or start biking to the office instead of using the train.
These new year’s resolutions are common in my coaching sessions. Yet, how many of you noticed the same wishful thinking on last year’s list? Or feel that it will be challenging to implement a new resolution sustainably?
Well, you’re not alone. Changing habits isn’t trivial — but with the right knowledge and strategy, we can make it much easier and more fun.
Whether you have business-oriented resolutions or personal goals, it’s crucial to understand the WHY behind your intentions: Why exactly do you want to make this happen? How much of it originates from you, and how much is influenced by your partner or colleague? On a scale of 0 to 10, how convinced and motivated are you?
💡Tip: If you meditate, you can integrate this visualization into your next session.
Exercise: A simple visualization exercise can help you answer the WHY. Take five minutes and find a quiet place. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and travel into the future. Imagine it’s been six months, and you’ve successfully integrated the new habit just as you planned. Try to experience it and picture yourself: How do you feel? What do you think about? How do you behave toward yourself and others? What does this day look like? What are you doing? What else has changed?
After a few minutes, open your eyes, come back, and write down your feelings and thoughts.
Now try the opposite outcome six months from now. Same drill: Close your eyes and travel into the future. This time you stopped after a few weeks. How do you feel now? Which thoughts come to mind? How do you deal with your environment, and how do others perceive you? Has anything changed? Notice your posture and any reactions in your body.
Let yourself spend a few minutes in this version of the future, return to the present, and document your feelings and thoughts in writing.
This short practice will indicate how strong your motivation for change really is. Has your WHY become clearer, or did you realize you need to adjust the plan?
Keep your notes, and check them whenever you need a little reminder of your motivations in the next months.
If the image of your future is strongly motivating, your WHY is obvious, and the steps to implement it will follow. How do I best settle into the new routine, how do I keep it sustainable, and which mistakes should I avoid?
I’m happy to share my six most effective tips for successful habit-building:
When you want to stop doing something
🤔 (1) The habit was there for a reason.
Ask yourself which purpose did the habit serve. How did it help you back when you adopted it? Is it still valid today? If it does, you should introduce a meaningful replacement habit for sustainable success
🔍 Example: I want to quit mindless stress-eating when it gets too much at work. → Why did you start it in the first place? Was it to get a break from those moments and reward yourself with something nice? Is this still serving you today? If yes, find a replacement for the exact need.
🔄 (2) Don’t leave the space empty.
Don’t just stop a routine without having a compelling alternative. Find something you can do instead: What would be a motivating, beautiful substitute?
🔍 Example: I want to stop scrolling through Instagram after lunch vs. I want to stop scrolling through Instagram after lunch and connect with a colleague over a cup of coffee.
🗒️ (3) Don’t make lapses a surprise — plan for them.
Naturally, we will have moments when we fall back into old routines. That’s human and completely normal. However, we can already anticipate most of these moments and plan accordingly. A lapse is much less likely if we take the element of surprise out of the equation. I typically divide my possible lapse moments into A, B, and C situations.
A is easy and predictable, B is difficult and predictable, and C is difficult and unpredictable. For A and B, I can make an “if-then” plan. C will just happen — that’s not a downfall, either. We often don’t know what that might be in advance, but it’s worth deciding consciously to be kind to yourself and just continue the next day. A lapse is not a relapse, and outliers are irrelevant in the long run. Consistency is key.
🔍 Example: In 2023, I want to go for a run after work twice a week.
- A: It’s raining. → If it rains, I will go to a gym nearby the office.
- B: I’m tired from a long working day. → If I’m tired, I will read through my visualization notes (see the exercise above), which will motivate me again.
- C: My partner will be home late, so I need to take the dog for a walk. → If a C situation comes my way, I accept it. I’m kind and understanding to myself. I will just continue with my plan tomorrow.
Review your ABC situations regularly, analyze your success rate, and add new situations or adapt your response plan.
When you want to start doing something
🎯 (4) Make your habit SMART.
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related) goals, and be as positive as possible.
🔍 Example: I want to read more business-related blog articles vs. I’m reading three articles every week this month while sitting in my favorite café around the corner.
🪢 (5) Try Habit Stacking.
Link your existing habits to a new one. There’s scientific evidence that integrating new routines is easier when you tie them directly to something you already do.
🔍 Example: I go for a 15-minute walk just before the daily check-in with my team.
🤼♀️ (6) Check for competing commitments.
Do you have another commitment that clashes with your new one? Could both work together? Having a competing commitment is a typical reason why a new habit will not stick — be aware and find a solution that works for you.
🔍 Example: I want to spend 30 minutes of playtime with my children in the evenings after I come home from the office vs. I want to take part in social after-work activities. Be creative: How can we combine those two things?
If you’re looking for personalized support, we’re excited to introduce Project A’s exclusive Personal Coaching and Development Program for founders, young leaders, and high-potential employees within and outside our portfolio companies. It’s a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with an experienced coach, set goals, and take action for sustainable change.
Have questions about habits? Need more input about the program? Reach out to us here or via our social media channels, and we’ll be happy to chat.
Which coaching or personal development topic would you like to read about next?
P.S. Get ready to supercharge your routines, and check out our next post, where we present the top 5 habits that will revolutionize your daily life.