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All About You: Keeping your resolutions

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If you did, how are you doing? I hope you’re having success – but I wouldn’t bet on it, because most people fail at keeping their big New Year’s resolutions. That’s because resolutions are tough to keep.

Habits are the culprit. It’s hard to change them, and that’s what we usually resolve to do – eliminate or add habits. The crazy thing is that they are a powerful influence on our lives.

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day were based not on decisions, but on habits.

So, what can you do to increase your success at changing your habits and sustaining your resolutions?

First off, don’t tackle more than one or two habits at a time. If you plan, “starting Monday,” to exercise five times a week, get up earlier to read more, eat less and listen better to your partner, forget it. It won’t happen. Not all at once, anyway.

You need to realize that changing habits takes a lot of extra energy. Mark Twain made this insightful comment about the subject:

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs one step at a time.”

The habits you change may lead to a big goal, such as “getting in shape” or “reaching a new position as a safety and health professional,” and a big goal can be inspiring. But for the short term, your best bet for success is to stick with one or two simple habit changes that take you closer to the goal.

Use memory triggers

Getting rid of or creating a new habit is not easy for three reasons:

  1. You don’t remember to do it.
  2. You don’t feel like doing it.
  3. What you’re already doing feels good.

For now, let’s just talk about the first reason, and I’ll give you a tip that has helped me tremendously.

In his book, “The Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg cites extensive research results that show “memory triggers” are an important key to forming new habits.

For example: Several years ago I wanted to drink more water. It was a hit-and-miss deal for a long time until I included drinking a bottle of water as a part of my morning routine. That was the trigger. Now, it’s such an ingrained habit that I sometimes grab a second bottle – forgetting about the first one!

Piggybacking a new habit onto one you already have makes it much more likely to stick.

Get back up

When you falter in keeping a resolution, think of it as a near-miss incident. You and I know we can learn from near misses.

The same applies to relapses with a resolution. Just get back up and learn from what happened. Most ex-smokers did not quit the first time they tried. Typically, smokers make five to seven attempts to quit before they are successful.

So don’t beat yourself up when you fail at keeping a resolution. Instead, be proud of your effort and follow the wise ancient Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times; stand up eight.” You’ll find that with time, patience, small habit changes and a bit of determination, you’ll be able to fulfill many resolutions.

One more thing: Happy New Year!

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit