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Forget New Year’s Resolutions: Commit to something that will stick

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Whilst New Year inspired us to kick bad habits to the curb and take up running, learn a language, or meal prep every week, you may be looking back at the last two months and realising that these new commitments just never happened…

But it turns out that maybe you are not the problem. Keeping up New Year’s resolutions is more challenging than one may expect: according to U.S. News & World Report, by the second week of February around 80% of people have given up on their goals.

That time is now long-gone, so we are here to provide you some tips on how to get back on the horse and make those commitments really stick this year.

So why do we fail so badly at keeping New Year’s resolutions? We create and maintain hundreds of habits in our lives everyday, where is the catch?

It’s all up to how we select them.

You’ve probably heard this before, but if you really want to achieve a goal it should be formulated in the SMART framework. This helps you ensure that what you want to achieve is actually realistic and reachable for you.

A resolution is doomed from the start if it is already something unattainable (you won’t be able to learn how to dunk if you physically cannot jump high enough), however it is also not going to work if the resolution you chose is something you should do as opposed to something you want to do.

Before any framework, look at your set goal and ask yourself: is it something that I really want to do? If you want to get more in shape this year but the idea of working out every day is not appealing to you, you might need to find an alternative approach or even a different goal to pursue.

How can you stick to your resolutions?

The Habit Loop

James Clear describes the habit loop as the backbone of every habit. It consists of a set of 4 processes that the brain runs through at any moment and in the same order each time. By stimulating the loop, we are able to create automatic habits.

  1. The first step is cue. This can be a specific time, a note or any other type of trigger that calls up the habit. It should be obvious and clear, for example a note left next to the keys reminding us to take the stairs, or an alarm on the phone that prompts us to go to sleep at 10pm.
  2. The second step is craving. This is how we interpret the CUE, the meaning that we give to it. Walking down the stairs will make us healthier over time while going to sleep earlier will make us better rested and energetic. Both end results are things we want to obtain and thus attractive to us.
  3. The third step is response, where the actual habit (like walking down the stairs or going to sleep on time) is performed. The response should be easy to carry out: if the habit is too complex you will not follow through and only set yourself up to fail. For example, if your goal is to start exercising, it will be easier to at first exercise 5 minutes per day and increase over time than to all of a sudden exercise an hour each day.
  4. This step is then followed by the reward, where we actually obtain the gratification of having executed the intended action. The reward has to be satisfying or it will not reinforce the cue and with it the Habit Loop.

While this model by Clear can be extremely helpful when trying to stick to New Year’s Resolution, as it allows us to identify which steps to take or what we are missing in order to enable them, it does come back to the principle that we must want the resolution we set or we won’t be motivated to implement them.

Reflect on your resolutions

In the end, if you are struggling to keep up with your set goals, take a moment to ask yourself these questions.

  1. Have you chosen something that you really would like to achieve?
  2. Have you created a space for such a goal in your life? Can you make it easier?
  3. What could you change to make it more satisfying to you?

The answers you will find will help you stick to what really matters.

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