As we begin the New Year, everyone feels obligated to make New Year resolutions regarding their health, career, or other areas of our lives they would like to improve. However, why do so many individuals feel compelled to make these changes at the beginning of each year? I would argue that for some it represents a new beginning, while for others it is due to social or peer pressures. Regardless of the reason, the fact is the majority of people are not making these changes when they are ready to make the change, nor are they intrinsically motivated and as a result, many of these changes don’t stick. So this year, I thought I would provide some advice from a few well-known habit experts to ensure this year’s resolutions are constructed with several best practices from habit science.
SYSTEMS FIRST MENTALITY
According to James Clear, author of the best-selling author of Atomic Habits, goals are the results you want to achieve, but you need a system or process that will lead to those results. Remember, you don’t rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems. So focus on developing those daily habits that will lead to success with your resolutions.
As BJ Fogg states in his book, Tiny Habits, there are only three things that create reliable change: an epiphany, environment change, or changing your habits in tiny ways. Small wins ignite transformative change by leveraging these small victories into repeated patterns that convince people more significant changes are possible.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is going to the gym regularly, make one small move toward this desired behavior. One example, you could place your gym clothes next to the door or in your car the night before your workout. This starter step creates the momentum to complete the next step (i.e., going to the gym) since there is now less friction.
ANCHOR YOUR HABITS
Find something in your current routine that reminds you to do the desired habit so that you do not have to rely on yourself or anyone else to remind you. Just remember, your anchor needs to be something that happens reliably in your life. Once that current habit is found, perform the new habit immediately after the current habit – After I do the anchor habit, then I will do the new habit. In this way, you are stacking your new habit with a current habit, dramatically increasing the probability that it will be done consistently.
Sticking with the resolution of getting in better shape, you could say that you will do two pushups after you brush your teeth. If you want to be more ambitious with this habit during the day (i.e., doing it more frequently), then Identify the daily routines you do in the morning, afternoon, and evening that you could stack with pushups.
BEHAVIOR CHANGE IS IDENTITY CHANGE
Actual behavior change is identity change. Improvements are only temporary until they become a part of who you are. It is one thing to say that you want to be in better shape. It is another thing to say I am the type of person who doesn’t miss a workout.
Remember, you are not aiming for perfection, just consistency. Your mentality should be to ‘never miss twice.’ It is never the one time you skip or don’t complete that new habit that ruins those New Year’s resolutions, but rather the spiral of repeated failures.
For more information on habit formation, you can read our previous blog on July 9, 2021.
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.