Every Sunday I follow the same routine. After lunch my daughter takes a nap. I’ll shower and then sit down at my computer to prepare the newsletter for Monday.

Oh wait. Oops.

As I went along in this same pattern last Sunday I remembered that I had (voluntarily) shifted the pep talk and newsletter one day earlier. I even sent you an email letting you know this change would be happening.

As I had this realization (in the shower, of course) I had a little conversation with myself about what it meant. Did I goof? Yes. Was it a big deal? No. 

I decided to just let it go and get back on track with this message I’m writing to you now. My mistake turned out to be the perfect teaching opportunity.

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At this time of year I know may of you are thinking about – and already implementing – changes you want to see in your memory keeping. Maybe you want to be more organized, keep up with a long term project, or develop a new skill.

Whatever it is that you want to do is different than what you did last year and it requires a change. But as we saw in my experience, it can be difficult to unlearn previous patterns. And that’s the secret.

In order to form a new habit you must break an old one. 

We all have tried to stop doing things, to stop leaving our supplies out, or procrastinating, or comparing ourselves to others. Stopping something you’re already doing is much harder than starting, which is why so many new year’s resolutions fail.

Getting started with a new habit, routine, or approach is pretty easy, but your muscle memory hasn’t yet recognized this pattern. This makes it all too easy to accidentally revert to your old pattern – and before you know it you’re back to the beginning.

So what can you do? 

In order to make lasting change you must identify both what you’re starting and what you’re stopping, the new habit you’re forming and the one you’re breaking. Here are some examples:

  • To become more organized, you need to start finding homes for each item and stop leaving your supplies out for next time.
  • To become more confident, you need to start celebrating your victories and stop comparing yourself to others.
  • To become more proficient, you need to start actively acquiring knowledge and stop wasting time watching others become proficient.

When you pair these together, you develop a deeper understanding of the root causes and create a stronger momentum towards success. The relatively easier success of the starting will also encourage you to be all the more persistent in the stopping.

What changes are you trying to make this year?