Making New Year's resolutions stick

Hands up, who is making New Year's resolutions?

It's likely that a large majority of you are. Before you decide what you want to change look back at the last year, the highs and lows. Have you changed? If so, was this due to last year's resolutions?

Unfortunately, most people make the genuine mistake of setting their goals too high or unspecific.

"Be healthier"

"Give up alcohol, bread, pastries & junk food"

"Go to the gym everyday"

Sound familiar? These are all good intentions, but over 8 out of 10 people quit in the first week. Look at where the final destination you want to go is and make a small step towards getting there. It'll seem almost embarrassingly small at first, but it's not the size that counts, it's what you do with it. After all, if you manage to keep a habit that you set yourself, you'll put into motion something that could change your life. Research from UCL has shown that it takes between 18 days for simple changes to 254 days (8.5 months) to make a habit automatic, like brushing your teeth before you go to sleep.

If your goal is to be 'healthier', really think about why this is. If it's because of pressure from others or 'everyone else is doing this gluten-free healthy thing' then it is unlikely to stick as you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Also, being just 'healthy' for someone who is disease free will be extremely hard to track, and you are unlikely to see the benefits of any changes for at least 30 years if you are in your 20s or 30s.

Consider instead making a change to be a better version of yourself, to be more productive, to do what you've always wanted. A few years ago, I gave up something I used to do every day: have a can of coke at work. Changing this for a nice cold bottle of San Pellegrino (only the good stuff for me!) was my small change but had a dramatic impact and now I no longer get any cravings or the resulting crashes after.

Last year I set a mini goal of reading more, so I just read a chapter of a book before bed. This increased to a couple of chapters a day. Now I get through a couple of books a week.

A few examples you could use:

1.    A glass of water when you get up to kickstart your system

2.    Want to have a little less stress? Sit in silence for 5 minutes after you get in from work.

3.    Be grateful. Before bed, write down 1 thing you were grateful for.

It’s not about getting perfection, it’s about recognising when you haven’t got it, and what to do to get the best chance of getting it.

Put it this way, get better by just 1% each week. Psychologically this seems like such a small amount that's easy to do. In 72 weeks you will be 100% better off. Small change, MASSIVE result.

What simple change do you want to make?


How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world