My boys all have summer haircuts. It’s such a sharp contrast when their hair is cut short. Suddenly they look different, older. It keeps surprising me every time I see them for the first few days.

But then, it grows out. Slowly, slowly, it returns to its former length, with periodic trims, and I don’t remember what it looked like short. Until it gets cut short again when the warm weather returns.

I think that sometimes it’s like that trying to establish a habit. Especially one that I feel like is good for me, but I’m not very enthusiastic about (like exercise). I jump into my shiny new habit and for a short time I keep it up. It’s there every day, but hard to get used to, like a surprising haircut.

And then I get less diligent. It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm under the force of time and my normal routine. And then something outside my normal routine demands extra time, and I decide I can skip the habit just the once. It happens again and again. It’s no longer part of my normal routine.

I get used to the idea of a routine without the new habit. It’s like in the fall, when the haircuts just aren’t as short and we are used to the new length because it happened so slowly. Somehow, everything is back to normal and I can’t even remember how I managed to add that new habit in the first place and make everything work.

And yet, I wanted that habit for a reason. I remember the reason. I feel guilty for not keeping up the habit. The next time I’m setting goals, there it is, back on the list. Maybe this time it will take. Maybe it won’t.

I’ve found that, like haircuts, goals need maintenance. While the new year is a good time to make long-range plans with a large number of goals, there are multiple points in the year where I can add a few new habits and goals back into the mix. It’s like a trim, instead of the full summer haircut.

My birthday, my anniversary, the start of school, my blog anniversary, spring break, the beginning of summer, thanksgiving… there are lots of times for checking in on and fine-tuning the plan I made at new years.

Someday I hope that the habits that I find so hard to keep will settle in place and become part of my daily routine. Until then, I’ll just keep adding them back in. Hair grows. Life crowds out new habits. I guess that’s just how things go.

Do you have a hard time keeping new habits? Do you set goals and start new habits at certain points of the year or as needed? Or both?

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