02/02/2015 06:03 GMT | Updated 01/04/2015 06:59 BST

Fresh Start to February: Replace Resolutions With New Habits

You can let out a sigh of relief. It's February and you no longer need to worry about all the chit chat about New Year's resolutions. You made an effort in January and you feel happy with some of the little changes you made in your drinking or exercising habits. Back to the 'old you' now. And your old bad habits. Oh crap. Maybe you don't want that. Maybe you do want to improve yourself and progress forward. It could be that you've just tried doing it the wrong way: by forcing massive new year's resolutions on you. By expecting overnight change or success simply by committing to the new year's resolutions. As you might have figured out by now, that's not exactly how it works.

That's why I'm here to challenge you to scrap your resolutions and commit to building new habits instead. Why? Because that's the real path to success. You can't change behaviours and habits overnight and sometimes that's exactly what we try to do by setting massive new year's resolutions without actually addressing how are we going to reach them. And that's where habits come in.

Habits are what dictate your behaviour and if you learn to put the right ones in place, you'll succeed in any goal you set yourself. No, it won't happen overnight. No, it won't be easy. But yes, it will make you succeed. Yes, it will make you move forward. Yes, it will help you reach your goals and your dreams. And why wouldn't you want that?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, 'What habits are helping me reach my goals?'. Stick to those habits like glue.

Then it's time to reflect on what's not going so well by asking, 'What habits are not helping me reach my goals?'. Commit to changing them right here right now, and believe that you have the power to do that (because you do).

For each habit that you need to change, you need to find a replacement behaviour. Because habits are ingrained into your brain for life and into your subconscious, the easiest way to get rid of bad habits is by replacing them with good habits. With this you will be changing the structure of your brain and creating a new neural pathway for the new habit which will become stronger and stronger the more you practice it.

Charles Duhigg explains a wonderful formula for replacing bad habits with good ones. All it takes is four simple steps (and a lot of persistence and a bit of time).

  1. Pick a bad habit you want to replace.
  2. Identify the cue. What's consistent when you feel the urge for your habit? (e.g. time, location, the people around you, an action, an emotion)
  3. Identify the reward. What craving is your habit satisfying? (e.g. eliminating hunger, reducing boredom, giving social interaction)
  4. Replace the old behaviour with the new behaviour that will give you the same reward (satisfying the same craving) and that will be prompted by the same cue.

For example:

  1. I want to stop drinking coffee first thing in the morning.
  2. I feel the urge for the habit when I wake up and I am feeling tired.
  3. When I have coffee, the warmth of it makes me feel cozy and the caffeine wakes my body and brain up.
  4. I replaced having coffee with drinking hot water with lemon and doing 15 minutes of yoga to start the day, making me feel equally cozy, energised and alert!

Now I want you to commit to changing one habit this month. Not two, but one. It's tiring for your body and mind to create new habits so it's important to focus on changing one habit at a time. Once you feel like you have successfully replaced your old habit with your new habit (usually taking around 21-30 days), then you can attempt to create another new habit.

In the words of Aristotle:

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."
Start building your new habits and you'll make success into a habit for you. I guarantee it.

Susanna Halonen, also known as the Happyologist®, is a life coach and writer based in London, England. She helps individuals to find clarity on what they want and to build their most fulfilling lives.