Breaking and Building New Habits
Each new year right on January 1st, change happens for millions of Americans. We go back to our days of girl and boy scout troops put our hands to our hearts, set a life goal for ourselves and solemnly swear to stand by it for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately for 92% of Americans, those goals are never met and those resolutions remain that uncrossed item on your bucket list. So the question remains, is there a way for us to stick to our resolutions, or are we doomed to fail?
Statistics of Bad Resolutions
Making new year’s resolutions are ingrained in us but are also notoriously known to fail. Here are some fast facts about how bad we are at sticking with our goals thanks to an infographic by History.com
● 45% of all Americans make new year’s resolutions on January 1st
● 25% give up their resolutions after the first week of January
● At the 6 month mark less than half continue with their resolutions
● A total of 8% of all Americans polled have been successful with their new year’s resolutions at the end of the calendar year.
So what gives? We all get excited about the new year and make promises to ourselves to accomplish a life goal and cross something off of our bucket list. So why is it so hard to keep our resolutions and how can we start sticking with them?
Setting yourself up for failure
Don’t do it. In an article on Psychologytoday.com, doctors and researchers state that setting unrealistic goals for yourself and unrealistic expectations sets you up for failure when it comes to new year’s resolutions. So it isn’t so much about setting goals at the beginning of the year but more about what goals you are setting.
Be more specific
The most common new year’s resolution is to lose weight. It is also the hardest resolution for people to keep. The reason why is because it is way too general of a life goal. An article from the American Psychological Association suggests detailing the type of workouts you want to do day by day and writing them down where you will actually see them. Being prepared gives you have a much higher chance of succeeding in your goal. In more specific terms, losing weight is not a realistic goal to set in the new year. However, losing 10 pounds in two months is a very realistic goal.
Start off small
Making a resolution to enjoy life to the fullest (which was the third most common resolution of 2015) is way too big of a goal because there are so many components to it. Start with little steps like going on a spontaneous trip somewhere for the weekend, do something nice for yourself or someone else, remind yourself to call family and friends, join a weekly book club or take up cooking classes. Make weekly goals instead of one big yearly goal and achieve one thing one week at a time.
Celebrate the little victories
If your life goal is to be more organized give yourself a pat on the back after you’ve made a to-do list for the day. Treat yourself to that new accordion folder you need after you’ve organized all your business files into their appropriate sections. Make sure to recognize that life goals take time and it’s important to enjoy the little things you accomplish. Don’t hold off on celebrating until the entire goal is finished because you may not get the chance if you wait.
Find an accountability buddy
Tell a friend your goal and ask them to be your cheerleader. If they’re willing to help keep you motivated they can hold you accountable for not reaching your week by week goals. Honesty is key with an accountability buddy. Trust the process and trust your friend won’t judge you if you take a step backwards. Even if you miss your weekly goal it isn’t the end, learn and grow from your mishaps along the way.
Don’t get discouraged so easily
Have fun with your life goals. After all, you are crossing off an item from your bucket list so it’s a major accomplishment and something you really do want to accomplish. If you take things too seriously your one mistake (and yes you will have at least one because nobody is perfect) will halt your momentum and give you more reasons to give up.
The 21 Day Theory
Thanks to plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the 21 day theory has made a huge impression on those seeking to form new habits. In essence the definition is in the name, it only takes 21 days of performing one task consistently before it becomes part of your routine. This theory has since become the basis for many workout programs, education/language programs, self help books and more.
According to howstuffworks.com, the 21 day theory has only been proven based on experience not controlled experiments so for some, 21 days to form a constant habit might work wonderfully, but for others not so much. One important thing to note is that habits are easier to make and harder to break. As humans we do adapt to new things pretty easily but how long it might take varies from person to person. Breaking a habit however, that takes will power. Understanding this could be a breakthrough in sticking with resolutions.
Example One: If you want to lose weight (or better yet lose 10 pounds in two months!) don’t try to immediately stop eating junk food. Breaking those bad eating habits could be harder than simply creating a new eating habit like, adding more vegetables to your meals. Don’t try to immediately stop eating your favorite meal that you have three times a week. Start by minimizing the portion instead.
Example Two: If you want to save money don’t just stop spending money all together and to try and break that habit. Instead, try saving your change from a recent purchase in a jar on the kitchen table. Not only will this new habit be easier to stick with, your motivation to keep saving will grow the fuller the jar gets because you can actually see change happening. Just make sure to actually save the money in the end and not spend it all on a new wardrobe.
Another option is splitting up the 21 day theory into sections. Forbes.com suggests there are three different phases that form habits. The first phase which they call “The Honeymoon Phase” is when everything seems easy. The second phase called, “The Fight Thru” is the toughest phase and the point where you are seriously thinking about giving up. Keep reminding yourself of why you started in the first place and if you are able to “fight thru” it the last phase is when your new habit becomes second nature. Most people have trouble during the second phase but don’t worry if you have to keep going through it because it does take practice.
Some simple tips
Involve your friends and family
Don’t be afraid to seek out help from other people. Changing habits can be a difficult process and that is what friends and family are there for, to support you.
Come to terms with your failures
It’s okay to make mistakes but it’s more important to face those mistakes so you can learn from them. Try not to pretend you didn’t eat that ice cream, admitting you ate will motivate you to not keep making mistakes. If you sneak ice cream and don’t admit it was a mistake, you’ll keep sneaking that ice cream.
Except to face roadblocks and challenges along the way
No one ever said sticking to a new year’s resolution was easy, which is why 97% of us don’t. Anticipate these roadblocks and prepare ways to beat them when they show up.
Start a Calendar
Use calendars to time out your resolutions. It makes getting things done easier when you know how much time you have left to accomplish it. Even procrastinators can get behind this one.
So what will your new year’s resolution be?
Think it over and discover what life goal you really want to accomplish. Pick one that is realistic and one you’ll enjoy doing. Keep things simple, make yourself reminders, take your time, be honest with your goals and mishaps and most importantly seek out support from your friends and family.
New year’s resolutions don’t have to happen on new years day. They can happen two months beforehand or three months afterwards. Start your goal when you’re ready and not when someone else tells you you’re ready. Giving yourself more time will mentally prepare you for what’s to come. Most importantly, have fun with it. Happy New Year.