My Slow but Steady Journey with Building Habits

A Post about redefining New Year Resolutions and Effectively using intent and actions to build your habits

Dear Reader,

I hope you had a smooth transition into 2023. My wish for you is that may you be kinder to yourself in 2023.

Let me begin by breaking a bubble. I have never kept at a New Year Resolution continuously for a whole year. But yet, I believe in New Year Resolutions and its power to build habits slowly and steadily. It happened because I had a couple of years of no resolution. And I realised that as long as I had a strong urge to build a habit, not keeping at a resolution continuously was better than not having one at all. If I resolved to practice Yoga during the year, and if I practiced it only until January 11th, it was still better than not starting at all. Because come February 1st, if I wanted that habit change in me, I would try to get back to practicing Yoga due to my resolution. That is all that matters. Rest of it depends on how I find my way back into the habit.

Not keeping at a resolution continuously is better than not having one at all ~ A Few Handpicked Things

Like a new job, a new course, a new city, a new project, a new year is a chance to begin; to explore a new version of yourself. If you want a version that reads books by the end of this year, you need to experiment with various ways of incorporating reading into your routine. New Year Resolutions have been vilified by people because they have kept unattainable goals while giving zero efforts. If planned well, Resolutions are effective tools in Habit Building.

How my Fitness/Walking Routine Grew over 5 Long Years

I have been attempting to have an exercise routine since November 18, 2017. I know the date because I had put up a post on Instagram saying I was picking up a new habit. Since then, I have walked in parks in Bangalore, stopped, gone to 5 am Yoga classes, stopped, joined a gym alone, joined a gym with friends, gone for about 2 months, stopped, walked during the intermediary days, tried online yoga, had an online fitness trainer, walked, tried doing yoga on my own, tried zumba, Bollywood dance, walked… but I never stopped permanently. I have been associated with my habit some way or the other. Every year, working on fitness has been a resolution and even though I did not stick to it by strict standards, I have been keeping myself active every few days, and it paid!!! During 2022, I walked a lot ( by my standards) and during the last 2-3 months, I have been walking more frequently than ever! It took me 5 years to get here!!!

Here are 8 Unconventional Thoughts/Practices that Helped me Stick to my Fitness Habit:

  1. I started focusing on my fitness on a random date: 18th November 2017. I was learning to deconstruct or tweak the habit of starting a new habit on rare milestone days like the New Year’s. While New Year’s Day is a good time to start a new habit, pushing yourself to start a new habit on random days during the year, by planning the habit strategy well, rewires your brain to start new habits faster.
  2. I also ensured that I always put fitness as my New Year’s Resolution every year. During the initial years of building my fitness habit, I kept at it for about 1 month or less and then stopped for about 4-5 months only to pick it up again. When I started walking in November 2017, by December I had taken a few breaks. January always gave an opportunity to start again with much fervor as there is a power of community and a milestone that serves as a propelling force. Have I convinced you yet? It is not too late. You can start your new habit even now!
  3. I took meaningful steps before I started a Habit. The day before I started my frequent walks in November 2017, I bought new workout clothes and walking shoes. The day before I started my 5 minute meditation for 14 days, I put up a board that reminded me to meditate everyday.
    14 Days of Meditation Reminder
  4. I was determined to start again as quickly as possible whenever I fell out of a habit. We have a tendency to look at falling out of a habit as a failure. If I was supposed to read everyday, but I didn’t read for 5 days, it seemed like I failed at my resolution. Instead, I can look at it as a much needed break, accept it and CONTINUE from there, as early as possible. Like in the second point, initially I bounced back to my habit only after months! Now I do it after a few days.
  5. I changed the rigid rules I had for myself; I always thought that I had to walk every day and maintain the streak of 21 days or 30 days or 3 months. If I stopped after Day 9, I had to start again from Day 1. Even if I fell sick and stopped walking for a week, I beat myself up for losing the streak. It was a toxic trait. So I got rid of the fitness streak idea from my head and told myself that I only had to focus on one day at a time. I could go for a walk today without bothering if I walked yesterday or if I would keep at it tomorrow. On some days I walked. On some I didn’t. But a 21 day streak did not influence my decisions anymore.
  6. I kept trying to reason with my mind. If you noticed, in all the cases above, I was experimenting on different ways of working on my habit. When my mind came up with a difficult problem such as ‘you lost the streak’ which is a very common element that stops people from sticking to a habit, I tried to look at it with logic and solved that problem. It is important to listen to the thoughts that stop you from following your habits and reason with them rationally. If my mind tells me, ‘You are tired. You don’t have to go for a walk today’, I would say, ‘Let me just get some fresh air for 5 minutes.’ I have done this so many times and ended up doing my regular 5 Km every single time. If I felt too tired after 2 Kms, I would go back home and get back to walking 5 Kms from the next day. I just listen to my body and mind.
  7. I Used the Previous Year to Improve my Habits in the New Year -I used fitness as an example because it worked for me. You can use this process for other habit building as well. A new year is a good time to look back and appreciate the improvements you have had over the previous year and to use this knowledge to add value to the upcoming days. You can sit for a while and note down all the good things that happened to you during 2022. They could even be the tiniest of joys, but make a note of them and see what worked, what didn’t and how you could use these learnings to improve yourself in 2023? For instance, I did not put up enough visual aids in my room to remind me of the habits I wanted to build in 2022. I will be doing it in 2023. Would you want to see it?
  8. Be Flexibly Consistent Rather than Being Rigid was my Mantra – Think of it this way! You don’t have to stick to your new habit every day throughout the year. Even if you stick to it for an average of about 2 weeks a month, every month, you are still in motion. You are still better off than not having a resolution at all! If you really think about it, it is not that hard!

I developed some of these methods through trial and error, research, conversations with my sister and help from my therapist. Since I started seeing visible results, I believe that if we train our minds to apply these methods, habit building will be easier than before. It took me 5 years because I had to unlearn, experiment and relearn. It might take lesser time for you.

Would you consider shedding all the pre-conceived notions you had about resolutions and starting them again with a better plan? What habit do you want to form during 2023? Are there any other methods that have helped you over the years? I am constantly looking for ideas for my personal journey, so do enlighten me.

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This blog post is part of the Let’s Say Hello 2023 Blogging Activity hosted by Swarnali Nath

Featured Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

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  1. Alpana Deo

    Lovely post.
    I liked point#6. Our mind is very naughty and it need someone to discipline it. By reasoning our mind, there are a very few options left to procrastinate or overlook or ignore the question.
    Happy New Year!!

  2. Swarnali Nath

    I am also a believer in flexibile lifestyle and sticking to my habits giving them enough flexibility without being rigid. I allow myself for situations that may change my fitness routine or dietary plans. Your post is a reminder of the fact that consistency is the key. I am happy to know that you’re progressing in your fitness goals, slowly but steadily. Wishing you a wonderful 2023!

  3. Geethica Mehra

    Habits come to you naturally and that’s why making good habits is helpful to you. I agree that focussing on health and fitness is important because I have personally felt many times that if you are not healthy, nothing seems to be right.

  4. Chinmayee Gayatree sahu

    I loved how you have it such a realistic touch. I myself have been struggling with my own health and fitness regime and hence this was so much relatable! Kudos to you for not giving up and this post has given me a boost as well.

  5. Dashy

    I am taking up the mantra ‘Be flexibly consistent’! I have been trying to follow some habits for quite a while, and always believed that having an on-and-off consistency made my attempt a failure. So I like your perspective of considering our return to the habit a win. I don’t make resolutions necessarily during the new year. I’m often penning down a plan of action to start something new throughout the year, many of them don’t work out but some do. Like trying out a new style of workout, or switching my schedule from rising early to sleeping late and then back again, or finding different ways to increase my knowledge on a subject I’m interested in – like online courses/watching docuseries/reading related books etc. We don’t need to wait a whole year to experiment with our habits. Loved the points you made here, Ranjini. Wishing you a successful year ahead 🙂

  6. Suhasini I.P.

    Your post has so much realistic touch about how we fail to keep our promises/resolutions to ourselves and why we need to be flexible. I really liked your pointers

  7. Harjeet Kaur

    Flexibly consistent is what I work around too. Great to know you are doing what you are. Just do not give up. Someone will not award us for doing it every day. Just this morning, I walked 3km after a month instead of my usual 5km and I felt thrilled about it. I do what I can do and that is the best way my dear. All the best for a flexibly consistent 2023

  8. Debidutta Mohanty

    Lovely post as it has a very practical approach. Fitness regime is must especially to keep yourself healthy both physically and mentally. I personally don’t believe in making resolutions and then breaking them one by one. Flexibility in achieving your goals is more practical and helps us to build good habits in the long run.

  9. Varsh

    As someone who has incorporated fitness in my life as a routine too, my date was 27th Nov, 2017 btw, I completely resonate with this post. Doing something is better than doing nothing, so yes if a resolution helps you get started, go for it. I like the term flexibly consistent. Surely applies to me.

  10. Leha

    Loved your insights on fitness, Ranjini. As always, your writing is impactful and a delight to read.

  11. Sakshi Varma

    Thanks for these really good pointers. One that resonated with me the most not to have very rigid rules – because that sometimes leads to the breaking of a resolution or getting us disheartened. Also totally agree that having a resolution and not following it through the year is still better than not having one at all.

  12. Amritha Srinath

    This is a very motivational post Ranjini, especially for someone like who has been planning a fitness journey for so long. I am going to take your advice of starting consciously to develop a habit, follow it and accept the pauses or failures in the journey and then kick start it. Thanks for this post. I shall come to this post again. Happy New Year!

  13. Sadvika Kylash

    I guess I could see myself while I read your post. Yes, we happen to stop for a routine if we feel that this is not working. I must give your mantra a try. Even I have tried many things, such as zumba, yoga, walking, and home workouts. But the only thing I stick to (after 2 years) is yoga. I so agree with you. And like you even I would try and try to make changes till I feel I could stick to this routine.

  14. radhika

    I keep on making fitness routines, but I cannot follow them regularly. Your posts have shown me the way how can I be regular. I’ll try to write and follow what I need to stick to my fitness routine. Though I have started yoga and a little dance with my little one. Thanks for such a useful post.

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