People have been making promises prior to the beginning of a new year for quite a while. The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to return borrowed objects and repay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus. The medieval knights at the end of the Christmas season renewed their commitment to chivalry.
The success rates of those who keep their resolutions aren’t very impressive. In 2017 about 37.8% of people in their twenties achieved their resolutions, while only 16.3% of people over 50 had success in achieving the promises they made.
Investigative reporter Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, found that to change unwanted behavior we need to understand the “habit loop.”
There are three parts to this loop and can be broken down into these steps:
• A Cue – this is a trigger that tells your brain to go into an automatic mode.
• A Routine – some type of behavior that begins after the cue that leads to a reward.
• The Reward – a physical or emotional occurrence that indicates to the brain whether a particular habit is worth remembering.
To be successful in changing an unwanted behavior, you keep the cue and the reward but change the routine. This requires you to understand, for example, what caused you to want that unhealthy snack, how you felt after eating it, and then replacing the snack with something good for you that will give you the same level of satisfaction. Of course, easier said than done.
So, don’t make New Year’s Resolutions without understanding how your mind and body has been conditioned to operate, or you will be among the almost 60% of people who don’t make them stick past six months.
In 2013 I created a habit to daily keep in mind the three great duties I assumed when I became a Mason; to my God, to my neighbor and myself. I wrote them on a card which I read to begin my day.
• I will refer to my God with reverence and ask for his aid in all my undertakings.
• I will act upon the square and do unto my neighbor as I would have him do unto me.
• I will remember the lesson of the compass and avoid every irregularity and intemperance which may impair my faculties or debase the dignity of my profession.
By creating and practicing a habit, I remind myself to continually strive to become a better man, a better Mason, and a better Leader.