It’s January, the season for resolutions. Almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and I certainly always do.
New Year’s resolutions often involve a change in a habit—usually, one that falls into the Essential Seven:
1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, drink less alcohol)
2. Exercise regularly
3. Save and spend wisely (pay down debt, donate to worthy causes)
4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (enjoy the moment, stop checking email, spend less time in the car)
5. Stop procrastinating, make consistent progress (practice an instrument, set aside two hours daily for uninterrupted work, keep a gratitude journal)
6. Simplify, clear, and organize (make the bed, give away unused clothing)
7. Engage more deeply—with other people, God, yourself, the world (call family members, volunteer, observe the Sabbath)
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Making a New Year’s resolution can be fun, but it can also be discouraging if we fail to keep that resolution. So what can we do to improve our chances?
For my book about habit change, Better Than Before, I identified twenty-one strategies to help us stick to our good-habit resolutions.
Here are a few to consider:
1. The Strategy of Clarity: Be specific. Don’t resolve to “Eat more healthfully.” Resolve to “Bring my lunch to work,” “No more fast food,” or “No eating after dinner.” The clearer you are about what you expect from yourself, the more likely you are to follow through.
2. The Strategy of Scheduling: Most of us are more likely to follow through with an action if we actually write it into the calendar. Also, consider keeping your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, do laundry) than every few days.
3. The Strategy of Accountability. Hire a trainer or a coach, buddy up with a friend, commit to a client, pay for a class—whatever works for you. For many people, it helps to join an “accountability group.” (Want a starter kit for launching a group? Download here.)
4. The Strategy of Treats. Give yourself healthy treats! When we give more to ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves. Seeing more movies might make it easier to keep going to the gym. Remember, a treat isn’t a reward. You have to earn a reward; you get a treat just because you want it. (Steer clear of unhealthy treats, however, such as food, screen time, or shopping).
5. The Strategy of Safeguards. Plan for failure; anticipate challenges—and if you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow. Although some people assume that feelings of guilt or shame act as safeguards to help people stick to good habits, the opposite is true. People who show self-compassion in the face of failure are better able to regain self-control, while people who feel full of self-blame struggle more.
What else? What are some strategies you’ve discovered to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?
For more information along these lines, check out Better Than Before. The entire book is about mastering habits and keeping resolutions.
Guess what? It’s easier than you think—if you do it right.