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I imagine most of us started the year with great intentions and plans for 2016. Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions included positive lifestyle changes such as drinking less wine or giving up sugar? Or doing more sport and taking better care of your health? January is famously the ‘new me’ month, but did you know that only 46% of promise-makers actually keep working on their well-intended resolutions past June!

I didn’t commit to a resolution because I find them very difficult to keep so I rather try to improve my daily habits little by little. Nevertheless, I was thinking of joining the ‘no-drink January’, but then a good friend of mine asked: “Is this how you want to live?” I thought it was a great viewpoint, as I happily started sipping red wine that had just been poured into my glass.

So ask yourself, are you living your ideal lifestyle daily or weekly?

I guess most of us would put their hand up and agree some small adjustments are needed. For example, you may want to cut down sugar or do more exercise. I imagine the common approach would be to say “I’ll now clean my food cupboards of all sugar and will no longer eat any sugary things, e-v-e-r.”

Where as cleaning out the food cupboard sounds like a good idea to me, most of us can’t go ‘cold turkey’ and commit successfully to such dramatic change over night. The likely scenario is that you’ll last for about a week and then at a friend’s party stumble upon some really yummy chocolate cake and all hell breaks loose. And now that you had that one slice, what’s the point of holding back with sugar!

At DrivenWoman lifeworking groups one of the core themes we work on is break disruptive habits and establish positive ones. This simple tip has helped me and I like to share it in our groups.

When you try to make positive lifestyle changes don’t strive for perfection, settle for small improvements instead.

Imagine the following steps.

Step 1. Think about your goal, lifestyle change or new habit you’d like to achieve.

Say, cut out sugar completely. This would mean not eating sugar 99% of the time. Perhaps once a year you’d have a slice of cake at a friend’s wedding. Hmm, does this scenario sound likely? Nope. Or you want to finally establish that healthy exercise routine and go for a run or to the gym 4 times a week. Or start reading personal development books, shall we say, every evening before going to bed for 15 mins? That at least sounds easy enough, right?

Step 2. Let’s half your target to 50%.

Now try again with the same goal. How would your year look like now? You can have sugar every second day! What a difference. Or instead of going to the gym 4 times a week you commit to 2 times a week. And that new bed time reading routine, well, three times a week will do. All of a sudden the goal sounds much more doable.

But this is the most incredible part: if you will stick to 50% of your original goal (rather than give up because you didn’t reach 100%) you can feel you accomplished tremendously at the end of the year. You slashed your sugar habits by 50%! You are in better shape than ever before. And you’ve probably read 7 useful and interesting books more than last year. Success!

Step. 3 Be happy with each day you reach your goal.

If you end up having 3 sugar free days per week, establish that as your new routine. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are sugar free. This is already a massive step. Remember to feel happy about the improvement.

And here’s how the 50% rule is working for me.

I want to do more mediation. In the beginning of the year I set myself a challenge to meditate 80 days out of 100 days (January – half April). My first week got off to a good start and I mediated 4 times, but second week I only managed once. With a 100% perfection target it would be very tempting to just give up. Only once, come on Miisa, you can’t do it! I’d lose motivation and would try to forget the whole thing. I might tell myself that mediation is not for me, I can’t stick to a schedule.

Instead I’m using my 50% rule!

My 100% target was to mediate six times a week. I’ve now established a routine where I manage 2 to 4 times a week. This sits right there with the 50% principle. Three times a week is much better than nothing! I’m very happy with myself as I’m slowly establishing a new habit and I get the benefits of regular meditation. When I’m ready I can push my efforts up a level.

I hope this simple trick is useful for you. Don’t give up on your positive intentions for this year just yet. Use the 50% principle and get started. Just remember that perfection kills progress and remember to congratulate yourself on your progress.

Ask yourself today was January the way you want to live your life? If not, there’s still 11 months of this year (and the rest of your life!) to make positive changes. And please share your own tips or experiences about your personal development plan in the comments.

Miisa

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