by Nick Carrier
Odds are that you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution before. Did you follow through with it? For how long? Maybe a day, a week, a month? Every year millions of New Year’s Resolutions are made yet very few are kept. Study after study reveals just how poor our commitment level really is.
In 2015 U.S. News found that around 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the second week of February. In 2013 a research team from the University of Scranton found just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. And the disappointing evidence goes on. So why is it so hard for so many to follow through on their internal commitments? People give lots of reasons – reasons for how some people follow through and even more for why most people don’t. This phenomenon boils down to something I’ve coined, “The Resolution Mindset.”
This is the mindset that I am going to wait until January 1st to make a big change in my life. But what’s the big deal with January 1st anyway? Is something stopping you from making this change in December? January 1st gives a convenient cop out to push this positive change off into the future, so we don’t have to do it now. And then what happens when January 1st finally arrives? We’ve created this idea in our heads that this change has to be drastic – that it needs to be life changing. What if it doesn’t have to be drastic and can still be life changing?
In order to make changes in our lives, we often look towards establishing a new habit. When establishing a habit, we know we have to do it a number of times for it to be ingrained in us – for it to come natural. But how long does it take to form a habit? How do we make a habit stick? Research studies say it all. Some say 30 days, some say 100 repetitions. There’s no cookie cutter answer – the amount of time it takes to form a habit is different for everyone.
But what if there was something wrong with the question altogether? Asking ourselves how long it takes leads us to believe there is an end date – some point of completion. This mentality creates an imaginary finish line to cross rather than a concrete lifestyle to live. Think about it. Do you want these lifestyle improvements to stop? No, if you really want to make a change you must be disciplined to stay consistent.
So, ditching The Resolution Mindset comes down to one fundamental action: Creating small, sustainable habits Establishing new habits is easier said than done. But making those small steps to change your life is not only necessary, it’s doable. Here are 6 steps to establish new habits to make your New Year’s Resolution a reality.
Break It Down
Workout 7 days a week? Save 50% of your paycheck? Never eat sweets again? These are unrealistic, at least to BEGIN WITH. You have to start somewhere. Everyone wants to optimize the finish line and see what that looks like before laying the groundwork; before building the foundation. You can’t expect to hit a 99mph fastball if you’ve never hit a ball off the tee. If you’ve never hit the ball off the tee before, how do you know which side of the plate to stand on, how to grip the bat, when to step, etc. We experience the same sorts of things when implementing habits. If we want to exercise 7 days a week, we need to know where to go to the gym, what we should eat before we go, what we should do when we’re there, how long we should be there, etc. These components create challenges for us. These challenges create inconveniences and discomfort. The more of these uncomfortable circumstances we face the lower chance we have to follow through with this new habit.
Go outside and walk for 20 minutes. Wake up and do 10 push-ups in the morning. Think of small habits that don’t take up a lot of time. Choose something that doesn’t present barriers for you to complete. This allows you to master the art of showing up. Routinely completing your small habit gives you the belief in yourself that you will show up and complete it time and time again. Once we master the art of showing up, we’ve laid the groundwork, we’ve built the foundation, then we can optimize the habit itself – that walk can turn into a jog, 10 push-ups turns into 50.
In order to take action, we must believe that the particular action will yield a specific preferred result. If not, we wouldn’t take the action. We must have certainty or at least the confidence and belief that if we do ‘X,’ then we will get ‘Y.’ If we don’t, then there’s no use in doing ‘X.’
Everyone is always looking for the fastest way to lose 10lbs and the easiest way to start exercising. A survey conducted in 2017 showed that 45% of respondents would like to lose weight or get in shape in 2018. There’s endless information in various corners of the internet telling us how we can lose weight, get lean, and build muscle. It’s nearly impossible to know who to trust and what to do that will actually work. So frequently we pick one idea, one diet, one workout plan and we start. We want to see results now – that’s how we’re wired. We need instant gratification. If we don’t, we’re quick to assume something is wrong with our process – with our action steps. We quickly lose confidence and stop practicing our habits.
So, find a way to create confidence – a sense of certainty. Find a personal trainer you trust, a nutritionist you believe in, or a group fitness class that can get you closer to your goal. This provides us with a feeling of certainty that if we go to that trainer, that nutritionist, that group class our goal will surely come. This confidence allows us to consistently do ‘X’ to get closer to ‘Y.’
Find a Trigger
What is telling you to complete ‘X’? What’s telling you it’s time to do your habit? A lot of us create a habit we want to do and then “forget about it.” We’ll try to get our workout in but we, “didn’t have enough time.” Find something you do on a daily basis – shower, brush your teeth, eat, check your email, put the kids to sleep, just to name a few. Pick one. And then do your habit right after that. This part is a game changer.
If those don’t work, you can create your own trigger. You can prep your physical environment. If you want to drink 6 glasses of water a day, leave a full water bottle on your nightstand before you go to bed. If you want to go to the gym in the morning, lay out your gym clothes the night before. Make it easy on yourself.
How do you expect to succeed if you don’t know what success looks like? Maybe success is eating 4 servings of vegetables a day. Maybe it’s spending 3 hours a week at the gym. Maybe it’s not pressing snooze on the alarm. Whatever it is, define it over a short period of time. No longer than a week. You can’t let the lack of success one time, five times, or even ten times define your journey and convince you to stop. Do better tomorrow. Do better next week.
Now that you’ve defined it over a short period of time, you know when you’ve succeeded and when you’ve failed.
Now, before you go crazy on me, I don’t mean that just because you went to the gym, you should go eat a Big Mac – at least not every time.
Rewarding yourself is about finding something small that is stimulating to you! Maybe you drink a glass of water and then you clap. This small stimulating clap is all you need to motivate you to drink another glass. Maybe you physically check the habit off of your to-do list to give you that mark of completion. Maybe you give yourself an extra 10 minutes of TV at night. Find something to do after you’ve completed the habit to give you a sense of accomplishment.
Do It Again
Consistency and discipline are key. You know this. You’ve tried this, but not with these steps. We’ve prepped ourselves, so that consistency and discipline are much more likely to occur.
Because here’s the thing – there will be times when you wake up with less motivation than the day before, NO motivation. There are going to be days where inspiration is the last thing on your mind. Shocking right?! BUT, if we’ve properly laid out these habits, they’ll happen anyway. It’s automatic, it’s been ingrained in you. Even if you don’t do anything else on your to-do list that day, you can cross off your habit. Following through with your habit on these days is what separates those who are successful from those who aren’t.
Everyone has those down days – EVERYONE – some more than others. If you’ve laid the groundwork and built the foundation with steps one to five, you will have this discipline to be consistent.
So, let’s ditch The Resolution Mindset and create small, sustainable habits. It won’t just happen by itself. We’ve got to put in the work.