Brain Science and New Year Habits

habits Jan 20, 2022

Since the wheels of 2022 lifted off from the runway, I've been laser focused on restoring pre-COVID habits. Perhaps you can relate. There are good habits to resume (like my A-Game Rhythm, or consistently engaging in our team collaboration platform). And, there are good habits to begin, like writing these new, weekly, 5-minute Clarity Sparks.  Or, there can be bad habits to break. Today, we’re focusing on the power of re-engaging good habits.  

Re-engaging my A-Game

Our brains thrive on routine, which is why (re)engaging a habit can actually gain more early traction than starting a new habit.

Why: because we’ve done it before and our brains hold onto the wiring, even though we stopped. 

For instance, over the past five or so years, I came to the realization that my best days begin when I'm on the elliptical by 5:15 in the morning. When I'm on the elliptical by 5:15am, all sorts of other really powerful and productive little things fall into place throughout the day. 

A 5:15am start was a huge shift for someone nocturnal by nature, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation from 8pm-3am. Over the past five years, my early morning A-Game Rhythm resulted in losing more pounds than I have years of life (and I turn 60 this year). It was a quality-of-life game changer, the foundation of a "habit stack" that resulted in my body shrinking and two businesses increasing. 

In 2020, COVID interrupted my A-Game. And, while I continued to be extraordinarily productive in my early Pandemic Pivot, the disruption resulted in losing my proactive organization. Emails remained in my in-box. My collaboration tool went untouched which resulted in an embarrassing number of tasks flagged as late. I just stopped looking and instead focused on the next task in front of my toes. 

Where I really felt it was in my health. The scale moved in the wrong direction, as did my strength and flexibility – key to my very amateur summer golf game. In mid-2021, my Dad passed away and work travel increased.  A benchmark year of business success resulted in a waistline benchmark of...well...not success.

So, I dusted myself off, lined up again at the starting line. When the 2022 New Year’s whistle blew, I began the race with encouraging momentum. Here are some of the science-based tools I’ve learned that help in re-engaging habits.

Clarity: Sustainable Habit Change

Focus on the 1% Factor

For sustainable change, pick one behavior and choose how you will improve it by 1% -  a day, week, or month.

Sustainable change happens 1% at a time – after time – after time. 

Check out this 4-minute video clip with Sir David Brailford, coach of the British Cycling team The 1% Factor: Interview with Dave Brailsford 

For me, I began the year feeling committed to launch with a M-F 5:15am start. It lasted one day. After adding the 1% Factor, I changed my short-term goals: Week 1, I’d start early on Monday, Week 2, Monday and Tuesday, Week Three, Monday – Wednesday.  And so on. Soon, I found myself ready to get up at at’m even on the days I’d decided to give myself a break.

Brain Hack: Focus on the habit are you re-establishing. Rather than going for the whole enchilada at one time, focus on the 1% Factor.  Write down one small step to take that moves the needle in the right direction? Is it Frequency? Duration? Intensity? Time of Day?

Stay Tuned - Upcoming: Activation Triggers, Decision Fatigue and Habit Resilience

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