Did Your New Year New You Fizzle Out? 8 Tips to Building Habits that Last

According to some studies, about 40% of Americans set New Year resolutions each year.  Those that succeed with their resolutions is even smaller.  Some estimate that between 10-40% succeed with their resolutions.  Doing the math that means out of 100 Americans, about 4 to 16 people succeed.  Ouch.  Some resolutions fail because they are too broad and un-measurable.  Other resolutions fail because they are a stretch goal’s stretch goal.  Then there are resolutions that fail because there is no plan or steps to achieve the goal. 

Here are some tips to build habits that last. 

  1. Create a one-word theme for the year.  By creating a one-word theme, you make all decisions through the lens of your theme.  Each day, each decision is an opportunity to reset.  Some of my themes have been sleep and family.  During the year of sleep, my priority was to get 8 hours of sleep each night.  For the year of family, each decision I made, I thought about the impact to my family.  I did consider the personal impact to myself. 
  2. Focus on one single daily habit.  It’s great to have grand plans of changing multiple habits.  However, we only have so much willpower to go through the day.  The more resolutions you have, the more your willpower is spread out.  Ask yourself “what is one single daily habit you want to create or eliminate?”  Whatever single daily habit you choose, do it daily.  Remember:

“What can be done at any time is never done at all.”

English Proverb
  1. Pair your new resolution with an established habit.  Just like peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, and pickles and a deep fryer go together, new resolutions stick when you pair it with an established habit.  A reward after you complete your new resolution goes a long way too. 
  2. Start small.  Habits are like snowballs.  They grow over time.  If your goal is to run a marathon this year but you haven’t run a single mile in years.  Start with goal to run a 5k. 
  3. Refuse to skip a day and NEVER miss two days in a row.  Accidents happen.  You will eventually miss a day.  Things happen.  When it happens, do not wait to restart your resolution.  Just like habits are like snowballs, missing days turns into weeks that turns into months.  Restart it immediately! 
  4. Monitor. You cannot measure what you do not monitor.  Humans have the tendency to exaggerate the truth.  Remember that fish you caught when you were 8?  Eventually it became the size of a whale, right?  Try the “Don’t Break the Chain” method, use a habit tracking app, or mark it down in your calendar when you complete your habit. 
  5. Refuse to accept excuses.  A few years ago, I start training with a trainer because I couldn’t stick with a workout plan on my own.  I gave myself very strict rules on when I could cancel on my trainer.  #1 I felt like death because I was sick. #2 It was preplanned because I would be out of town.  Often, we say things like “it’s too cold or hot outside to go for a run,” followed by “I can run at the gym,” followed by “but do I have time to run and go back and forth from the gym?”  You see where this is going.  Do not accept excuses.  Trust me.  They will come up. 
  6. Break down barriers.  Sometimes the biggest barrier is time.  Did you sign up for a gym across town when there is one down the street?  Did you create an overly complicated process?  Did you add unnecessary extra steps?  Review your resolution and see what you could do to make it easier to achieve. 

For more suggestions check out my article I wrote about becoming more productive

Courage doesn’t always roar. 

Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day saying,

‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’

Mary Anne Radmacher & Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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