It’s almost time for everyone’s favorite phrase: ”new year, new me”. You’ve heard it a thousand times before and will likely hear it a thousand times in the future. So the real question we should ask ourselves is: how many people do you know that are more or less the same person they were this time last year? We’re sure almost everybody. So let’s dig into why New Year’s resolutions don’t work and how to make yours last.
Why Can’t I Stick to My New Year’s Resolutions?
An estimated 10% of all New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved, but why is the number so low? Typically New Year’s resolutions involve habits we are trying to break, such as: eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, stop smoking, exercise more, etc. Habits are essentially conditioned, no-thought-needed responses to the various elements of our day. For example, you may drop your bag the second you get home and jump onto the couch to watch TV every day without thinking about it. That is a habit. So why does breaking a habit fail so miserably? It’s because most of us decide to break a habit without remembering to replace the habit with something else. It’s easy to say “I don’t want to smoke anymore”, but when the urge comes, if you don’t have another habit or a task to replace smoking, chances are you will inevitably go back to it.
Does That Mean I Don’t Stand A Chance?
Don’t worry, all hope is not lost! You have hundreds of habits you implement each day. These habits formed without you really putting much thought into them, which means it can’t be that difficult to implement new habits consciously.
Here’s the first step to creating a new habit:
Choose an easy, small action that you know you will be able to implement with ease. “Lose 50 pounds” is a daunting task, as is going from 3 meals to 6 small meals a day overnight. Instead of telling yourself to go to the gym daily, try parking a little further at Target so you walk more or take the stairs instead of an elevator at the office.
Attach the new habit you are trying to form with an old one. If you swim 3 times a week for an hour, try swimming for an extra 15 minutes every time. Similarly, you can also attach the habit of going to Target with “I will park as far as possible when I go shopping”.
Reminder: Creating a new habit will take at least 3 to 7 times of practicing the habit for it to become an intended part of your psyche. After 21 days, this new habit will become one with your old habits.
Create a New Vision of Yourself
Everybody sees themselves in a certain light. The way you see yourself, if you are being truthful and honest with yourself, can explain nearly every actionable behavior you have. Let’s put this into a hypothetical scenario: If I am honest with myself, I am lazy, and therefore I have the habit of laying bed for 30 minutes in the morning scrolling through Instagram, reading e-mails, checking Twitter, etc. This is why I have a habit of waking up 30 minutes earlier than I have to in the morning. Another habit I have formed because I am lazy is a “go-go-go” mentality. This also stems from my lazy habit; therefore I have created the habit of not taking breaks or slowing down during the day because I know if I stop, I’m doomed! Most of the actions associated with this vision you have of yourself are made subconsciously. So, the question here is how do we change the vision or story we have of ourselves to incorporate our goals?
- Write out your existing vision or story with special attention to the goals you would like to implement in the New Year. For example, if I want to change the vision of myself of being lazy in bed in the morning, I need to focus on why it is so difficult to get up and out of bed in the morning or why it may be difficult for me to peel myself from the TV and my couch.
- Once you’ve written this out, write the future story you envision for yourself. In this scenario I would write a story about why productivity is extremely important and healthy for me, thus why foregoing my lazy habits would make my days more fulfilling and fruitful.
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These techniques have been proven by psychologists as successful methods to integrate new habits into your life. We hope you can also find success in these methods. If this article has helpful to you, we would love to hear about your New Year’s resolution triumphs so we may feature you on our Facebook page here.
Now that you’ve learned new methods to help your New Year’s resolutions to stick, check out our article on The Most Common New Years Resolutions for 2019.
We would like to thank Susan Weinschnek, Ph. D., of Psychology Today for these helpful tips on creating successful New Year’s resolution strategies.