Turn Your New Year's Resolutions into Habits that Stick
We all start the New Year determined to create new, better habits. The trick, however, is to follow through!
Here’s how it typically goes. We awaken on January 1 brimming with resolve. We decide to create new habits: eating right, exercising more, saving money. And we do it… for seven or eight weeks.
Then we say, “one candy bar won’t hurt”… or “missing one day at the gym won’t matter”… or “getting one expensive pair of shoes won’t break the bank.” And the next thing we know, it’s a candy bar every day, and a week without going to the gym, and six new pairs of shoes we don’t need. (Sound familiar?)
Luckily, there are ways to make your new habits stick, rather than backsliding. Here are my seven best tricks for success.
- Be mindful.
Make a list of the habits you’re cultivating. The more specific you are, the better; for instance, your new habits might include going to the gym five days a week, saving an extra $20 a week, or sticking to my 80/20 eating plan. Each day, in your journal, write about how well you succeeded in cultivating these habits.
If you catch yourself going back to your old ways—for instance, reaching for junk food instead of good food—analyze why this is happening, and come up with a solution.
- Remind yourself every day why you’re cultivating this habit.
One good idea is to list your reasons on sticky notes and post them on your bathroom mirror. Keeping your motivations front-and-center will help you stay strong.
- Be patient!
It takes a minimum of 21 days to create a new habit, and some researchers say that 90 days is more realistic. So if you screw up, don’t feel discouraged and give up. Instead, simply resolve to do better tomorrow.
One good psychological trick is to treat your new habit as an experiment. At the end of each week, analyze your results—both positive and negative—just like you’d analyze the results of an experiment in science class. This helps you view your progress and setbacks more rationally, rather than falling into the “I failed, so I’m giving up” trap.
- Try small steps.
If you don’t feel like exercising this morning, then don’t tell yourself, “I need to exercise.” Instead, simply put on your exercise outfit. Similarly, if you don’t feel like cooking a healthy meal, simply do the first step—for instance, chopping up an onion for a stew. Frequently, taking that first tiny step toward a goal will break through your inertia.
- Tell a friend.
When you tell a person you respect that you’re committing to a new habit, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it. Just make sure you choose someone who’ll encourage you, rather than letting you make excuses! Report your progress to your friend on a regular basis—at least once a week.
- Hang out with role models.
It’s human nature to mirror the people around us. So if you want to succeed at cultivating a habit, spend time around people who already have that habit.
- Use positive imagery to reward yourself.
Positive thoughts help to cement a habit. So each day you succeed at your new habit, imagine a fireworks display going off, picture an audience applauding you, or mentally pat yourself on the back and say, “Well done!” One friend of mine visualizes pinning a medal on her shirt each day that she succeeds at sticking to a new habit.
These tricks may seem pretty simple, but you’ll be surprised at how well they help you stick with a new habit. So put them into practice every day… and before long, that unfamiliar new habit will become second nature!
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!