It’s Christmas – enjoy it (and bring the good habits back in January)

The Christmas holidays are coming. Many of your good, carefully-built habits will stop. Not because you’re undisciplined or lazy. But because that’s how human behaviour works.

So don’t worry. Go with it. Understand why it happens. And you can bring all the good habits back in January.

For any behaviour (including habits) to happen, three things have to come together at the same time:

  1. Motivation (want to do it)
  2. Ability (can do it)
  3. Prompt (reminded to do it)


If any one of them is missing (or insufficient) the behaviour won’t happen.

Going into Christmas, your motivation to exercise, eat well, and get to bed early may well subside. But this isn’t the main reason why some of your good habits stop.

The key factor is that your environment/routine changes. Which changes your ability and prompts.

Perhaps you’re in the habit of going to the gym at lunchtime. The gym is on the ground floor of your office. This makes it much easier to do when you’re working at the office. You just have to get the lift down. Even if you’re equally as motivated to go to the gym on the 27th of December, if you’re not at work, your ability is dramatically reduced. So it likely won’t happen.

And what about that habit you’ve nurtured when working from home. After you sit down at your home office desk in the morning, you spend 10 minutes learning French on Duolingo. Guess what? During your Christmas holiday you probably won’t sit at your home office desk, so the language training won’t happen. The action of sitting at your desk was the prompt. No prompt, no habit.

To reduce your chocolate and alcohol consumption in 2023, maybe you’ve got into the habit of only buying it at the weekend. And only buying enough for the weekend. It’s not in the house during the week, so it doesn’t get consumed. The problem is, your spouse is a teacher, and lots of kind parents have sent in boxes of chocolate and bottles of wine – stocking the cupboards and fridge for weeks. You see it, you’re prompted. It’s easy, you dive in.

We know this is going to happen. So let go and enjoy it.

In January, some of the good habits (the ones that are now hard-wired in) will reappear all on their own as the prompts return and ability increases once again.

Some may not, however. The key here is to modify your ability by shrinking the good habit or by creating an effort barrier between you and the bad habit. Make it 2 minutes on Duolingo rather than 10. Just show up at the gym rather than committing to do a full workout. Give the left over wine and chocolates away (you will have had all the good stuff by then anyway!). Reestablish the tiny version, then allow it to grow to its previous size. Make the right choice the path of least resistance, and the wrong choice the path of most resistance.

Merry Christmas. And best of luck for 2024.

All the best,
James.

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