One in three of us will have made a New Year resolution and a third will have pledged to get healthier. It’s all good stuff but only one in ten of us will stick to it.
How can you make sure you come out a winner?
Make a promise
It’s no surprise that New Year resolutions crumble so readily. It’s in their very nature to be reassessed when the clocks bong. If you want one to stick, there are few psychological tweaks to help you do it.
Instead of thinking of your good intentions as a resolution, make a promise. Tell your friends or people at work just what you’re going to do so they can subtlety keep you on track. Resolutions come and go but rarely do you intend to break a promise.
The added moral obligation means you’re more likely to stick at it.
Make it realistic however. Promising you’ll win Olympic gold is just going to annoy people, but tell people you are going to run three times a week and they’ll help you along the way.
Can you be more specific?
So be specific with your promises. Have a long think about what you want to achieve, how you’re going to get there and then make it concrete.
To say ‘I will go to the gym more this year’ is too fleeting to be measurable. Specifying that you will go three days a week, which days and what you will do there is the start of a plan as well as promise.
Write it down somewhere that you will often see it: the dashboard of your car, on your alarm clock or in a calendar app that refuses to drop off your lock screen.
Set your goal and how long it is going to take you. You can then work backwards and set yourself milestones to hit. These small specifics are easier to hit and will keep you motivated.
Incentivise and thrive
Self-reward is important to forming habits. If you can make it through a month of new resolution of course you deserve a reward.
The trouble is that unless you have a particularly altruistic bunch of mates, any rewards are going to be those you give yourself. The pair of shoes you buy to reward a gruelling month in the gym were never really in jeopardy – nothing is really stopping you going out and buying them regardless.
These extrinsic rewards aren’t necessarily linked by much and studies show that the moment they dry up so does your motivation.
Instead, try to ensure that any positives you gain are intrinsic to your resolution. If being in the gym bores you, try listening to your favourite podcast only when you’re there. Or ditch a boring cardio session for a social game of five-a-side. Soon you will be readily associating business with pleasure.
Stick at it
It takes 21 days to start doing something without thinking. Called automaticity, it’s what we’re after and is the true measure of a successful habit.
You can use the turn of the year to kick start you out of autopilot. Make deliberate moves to add your new plan to existing routine. If your gym is on the route between home and work, make a point of leaving earlier to fit in a workout. Before long the habit will be thoroughly instilled and you’ll naturally give yourself that extra bit of time to do so.
It’s called ‘if-then’ planning and feeds off triggers already around us. Thinking of having a coffee? Make a point of having an apple too. Make it through the month and things get far easier.