The “Keys” Experiment


The first week of 2020 has now come to a close. Did you make any resolutions? Are there goals you want to reach this year or changes you want to make? We can want a lot of things for the new year, have new hopes and dreams. However, getting from A to Z can be another matter. Even with 50+ weeks to work it out we can get discouraged if we haven’t met our goal the first few weeks. This is unfortunate because it may take a few months to even get started depending on the goal. Appreciating the process and staying committed is half the battle.

As a counselor I hear a variety of experiences with resolutions. The most common is what clients tell me when they first share their resolutions “… but we’ll see how it goes”. Unfortunately, this may also be the first breakdown towards success. Happenstance is not a good strategy.

The point of a resolution is to create and establish something desirable and sustainable. To do something that has a lasting impact for you. How you define that is entirely up to you. However, how you make it work for you may come down to how you develop or break habits. It can be a thinking, feeling, or doing habit. Fortunately, according to research it can take a couple of weeks to establish a new habit with consistent effort. With 50+ weeks in a year that gives us about 20+ tries while maybe even redirecting or breaking an old habit.

One of my goals for the year is to get to sleep on time. The impact of lack of sleep can be quite significant. For the past year, I have developed a tendency to stay up and read, do some media scrolling, or keep working when I should be getting ready for bed. Before I know it midnight rolls around and having to be up at 6 doesn’t give me the time I need.

This first week I had a couple of successes, but I still find myself losing track of time and staying up too late. On some days I am taking on too much and underestimating what I can accomplish in one day, so I push it to the limit. Things that I enjoy seem to end up at the bottom of my list or I find ways to justify not doing what I should be doing. Whether putting things off or dismissing them entirely.

So, how did your first week go? If it didn’t go as planned, you may want to take inventory of what worked and what didn’t. Rather than thinking about how it didn’t work out and call it quits, you may want to consider adjustments that you need to make in order to make it work. Remember it is a process and you have several months, weeks, and days to meet your goal.

Think of it like taking a long trip. Most of us can’t just go to the airport and hope there is a plane going where we want to go. We must plan, decide where to go and for how long, consider finances, set time aside in your schedule, compare availability of airfare, buy the ticket, get a place to stay, maybe make arrangements for pet care, put a hold on mail delivery, and pack a few things. It is no different with your resolution. It is going to take effort and planning. Some things are going to fit in your luggage while other stuff will have to stay behind. Maybe even permanently. Figuring out where to go, what stays, and the cost we are willing to pay is all a part of that resolution journey.

So, what are you going to need? When are you going to need it? What fits and what needs to go? If it is a habit, then the primary ingredients may be your thoughts and feelings. Was the first week hard? What was hard? Was it a hard feeling, thoughts, or hard to do physically? Thoughts and feelings can occupy both time and energy to make things seem overwhelming and hard even if physically doing them is quite easy. This is where self-observation, evaluation, and planning can make a big difference.

If your first week didn’t go as hoped, then why don’t you try an experiment for the next week to figure out where some of your strengths and weaknesses are. I call it the “key experiment” and it begins on a fairly neutral plane. Start with a question and then make a decision.

When you get home after work or anytime you have been out, when you return home, where do you put your keys? Do you have a regular spot like a coat pocket, table, counter, wall hook, basket, shelf, or a purse? To start the experiment, right now, choose a new and different spot that you will put them for at least seven days every single time you leave your house and return. The goal is to consistently and automatically put them in this new spot every time you leave and return. Start putting them there tomorrow and begin to observe how you work towards that goal. At the end of the week ask yourself some questions.

How long did it take you to figure out the new spot? How many tries did it take you before it was automatic to put them, or even find them, in that new spot? What did you have to do to remind yourself to put them there? How many times did you put them in the old spot? How many times did you find yourself bored or frustrated with the task? Maybe even thinking it was pointless and wanted to give up?

For this next week, I’ll be working on the “keys” experiment for myself in many respects relative to my goal. Breaking down what is working and what may need some adjusting. I hope to hear from you in the comments on how you processed through this second week of the year as well.