Tricks for Habits that Stick

Hand of woman writing on a notepad that says goals. Photo by Marko Klaric on

It’s a New Year and a New You – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Do you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolutions? More than likely, the excitement of starting a new year wanes and you find yourself back into your old routines. This is exactly how the brain is supposed to work; it inevitably takes the easiest route (the old habit).

If you are truly motivated to change, you can be the exception to this rule. The trick is to turn your optimism for the New Year into ritualized actions. Once you start a routine, it becomes easier to follow through. You have to keep up the routine until it becomes the pattern that your brain will make with little effort.

Whether you’re making multiple resolutions or wanting to work towards one bigger goal, be sure to pick something that’s achievable within the years’ time frame.

Set Achievable and Clear Goals

Strive for making your goals achievable so you don’t set yourself up for future failure. For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Determine where you stand currently, and then give yourself a goal that can be achieved following the 1-2 pounds per week guideline.

You’ll also benefit from making clear goals. Rather than saying that you want to be thinner, say how many pounds you’d like to lose. Then define the “how” as well. Are you going to follow a specific diet? How are you going to cut calories? Are you going to start a moderate exercise routine? How often?

With a clear, achievable goal and a set plan of tasks you know you can complete, you virtually guarantee your success! You know exactly what you want and how you’re going to get there. All you need to do now is take action.

Take Action

Taking action is usually where people tend to run into some trouble. It’s easy to get pumped up about an idea, but when it comes down to executing your plan, you might be tempted to fall short.

In this situation, you only need to muster up the energy to start. Tell yourself that you’re going to stick to your new plan for one week and then evaluate how it went. On the other hand, if you take everything in all at once, you’ll be less likely to begin in the first place. If it looks overwhelming, just focus on the short term.

Pro Tip: Try to break down the new habit into behaviors. Identify any building blocks and master each one at a time. For example, if you want to walk 30 minutes in the evening, start to dress for the walk (shoes, etc.) as soon as you get home. That way, you are always ready. Then, set an alarm for the time to go for the walk. You are dressed to go! Then, head out the door! Even if you are ready to jump in from day one, creating a ritual around the other behaviors increases your likelihood of success and can improve the speed at which it becomes a thing you do!

Form a Routine

The reason you want to take baby steps at first is because once you form a new routine, it’s actually easy to hold yourself to it. Some say that it takes as little as two weeks to get a new routine engrained in your brain, while other experts say it takes longer.

In my experience, it depends on the complexity of the habit and how successfully you build the behavior into your daily rituals. Think about something you without fail, like brush your teeth in the morning. This has been ingrained into your mind as an integral part of your day from early on. When you were learning, there were lots of rewards such as new toothbrushes, parental praise, and maybe even kudos from the dentist with a trip to the treasure box (those were coveted when I was a kid!) Soon, it was something you just did–without much thought. Even when you are running late, you will get in a few swipes with the toothbrush!

Reward Yourself

Reward yourself often for your excellent efforts because you deserve it for working hard to change yourself for the better. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year to treat yourself.

Break up your goals into smaller pieces and every time you achieve a milestone, give yourself something that you enjoy. It could be an item you’ve been wanting or maybe a night out on the town.

Rewarding yourself for a job well done motivates you to keep going!

Do It Again!

After your first successful year of bettering yourself through New Year’s resolutions, you can then repeat the process and work on another aspect of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be a perfectly happy and healthy person because of your awareness, perseverance, and hard work!

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