New Year’s Resolutions – How Can We Make Them Stick?

Another year has come and gone, how can we make sure that we start off this new decade the right way? Each year, everyone eagerly comes up with their resolutions and promises themselves that this year they are going to stick with it. For most, they last a few weeks to a month and then life gets in the way and their resolution is either forgotten or shoved to the side. But that doesn’t have to be the case! Listed below are some topics that will be discussed:

  1. How long does it take to form a habit? 
  2. What are some strategies to make a New Year’s resolution stick? 

How Long Does it Take to Form a Habit?

On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact. However, how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In a study performed by Phillippa Lally, he found that it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit.1

Furthermore, the researchers found that, “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then; building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process! 

What Are Some Strategies to Make a New Year’s Resolution Stick?

Knowing how long it takes for a habit to form, there are several strategies that can help us stick to our resolutions long enough to make it a habit. 

The first strategy includes choosing the right ‘whys,’ or the reason behind why you are making those resolutions in the first place. Motivation is our fuel for doing anything, and the quality of our motivations will affect whether our resolutions stick or fade away. For example, those who claim they want to start exercising in order to lose weight will find that their reason isn’t enough to motivate them to follow through with their resolution. Therefore, it is important to steer clear of “should-based whys” and focus on how that resolution will improve areas of your daily life in ways that will energize you, not deplete you. 

The second strategy is to start small. Although “go big or go home” is a common phrase used often, it rarely works when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Starting with small and attainable goals will help you to overcome the overall daunting task, making it more likely that you will form a habit and can then later tack-on larger goals. For instance, if you’ve never exercised before it is unlikely that you will suddenly start working for an hour every day, so start with going to the gym for three days a week or start taking short daily walks. 

The third strategy involves making one change at a time. Let’s be honest, we only possess so much willpower, so having multiple resolutions isn’t likely to work. Furthermore, it is best to keep resolutions simple as compared to ambitious resolutions that require behavior changes. For example, weight loss is more than just “eating less.” It could mean shopping and cooking completely differently and committing to an exercise routine, which when put together can seem daunting and unattainable. 

The final strategy that can help to make your resolutions stick is to keep a log. Tracking your progress may be one of the easiest and most effective ways to help make your resolutions stick. According to one study at the University of Washington, the more that you monitor your performance, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.2 

Resources: 

  1. Clear, James. “How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science).” The Habits Academy. 
  2. Schwartz, Joel. “Don’t trip over your New Year’s resolutions.” University of Washington. 1998. 

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