How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick Forever

Part One

 

Happy New 2021 to everyone. Make this year the best year of your life (I would like to help you if you let me).

As December is approaching the end, more and more people start imagining, planning, and writing their New Year’s resolutions. It is the beginning of a new year, a clean slate for all of us. A new beginning to start fresh, therefore a new list of resolutions, some all too familiar from 2020 or previous years that just never got accomplished. 

But why does this one-day difference play such an important role in our lives and in our minds? If we didn’t know that today is the beginning of a new year, would we change anything in our lives? Or would we still keep the same old habits – aspiring to change, but never see to it.

Most people wait their entire lives to change. They want to improve and be better, but only with words and aspirations – never with actions. Actions are hard and hard is uncomfortable. Our brain will find 10,000 excuses why not to change. Then one day, as they lie on their deathbed, they realize they’ve never truly lived. The only thing that is left at that moment is regret and bitterness in the mouth.

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.

William Wallace

No one wants to be one of those people, yet many of us end up like them. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.

The University of Scranton’s research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals, which means 92% of resolutions fail. And for most of us, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February.

66, not 21

Good habits, especially those that are drastically different from our typical lifestyle, are hard to start, and even harder to keep.

Research from University College London (UCL) shows that it takes approximately 66 days to break an old habit, and for a new habit to become automated sometimes takes even more. (Not 21 days as most of us thought – I included).

21 days is needed for the human mind to adapt to a major life change. That’s why we need to stick to good habits as long as we can because once they become a part of us, they will likely stick forever.

Imagine this example, try reading one hour a week throughout the year – 365 days, and then suddenly drop this habit. Chances are you’ll miss reading after consistently doing it for so long because it became an essential part of your day and life in general. Suddenly you have one extra hour per day free, so there is a huge probability you’ll fill that hour with another good or bad habit. Statistics show that it’s more likely to be a bad habit such as watching more TV, playing computer games, drinking, etc.

Our Mind Plays A Significant Role in Habit Formation

Everything related to the formation of habits begins in our minds. Our brain is a beautiful machine, but more often than not, resistant to change. Why change something if we are happy with the status quo. Why impose difficult challenges on us if there is no real need.

Our 50,000-year-old brain will say: “I am not in danger of dying because there is not enough food or a Saber-toothed tiger will kill me, so please leave me alone, leave everything as it is”. And there lies the problem, but also the cure. 

We need to understand at a deeper level why we do the things we do and recognize negative, self-sabotaging, or self-limiting behaviors that resist the change we would like to impose on it. Once we understand our brain, our mindset, our values and beliefs, and our greatest fears, we will understand why it is so hard to change.

We fundamentally need to change parts of us to form a new habit and become better versions of ourselves. How do we do that?

3 Important Steps to Form Long-Lasting Habits that Will Make Our New Year's Resolutions Stick Forever

First, we need to realize that our mind must change before any behavior changes

Second, we need to create an accountability structure to help us sustain change. 

And third and most important; we need to stick to the new habit/change for as long as it takes to adopt it as a part of our new identity (remember those 66 days).

Sounds easier than it is. But it is not impossible either, and I will show you how I do it.

How Do I Do It?

Personally, I don’t engage in making New Year’s resolutions anymore. There is too much hype around them, and they rarely work. Instead, when I find something I would like to implement in my routine because I deeply believe it will benefit my life, I open the Notes app on my phone and write the date I would like to start a new habit.

I give myself exactly one week to research everything about the habit/change I want to impose on myself, and after that time I start with it. Then I stick to it no matter what. If, after a few months of doing it, I don’t see an improvement, I will abandon the habit. But this has never happened to me, thanks to the research I do before I start the habit. My grandpa used to say: “Good preparation is half the job done”.

When you decide to start a new habit, don’t wait until tomorrow, or Monday, or the start of a new year. Our time on Earth is limited; therefore, don’t spend it waiting for some imaginary, perfect time to start a change or new habit. Change every day and strive to be better than the day before.

If you need extra motivation, I highly recommend having an accountability partner – a person who will help you achieve your goals, who will push you when you want to quit, and who won’t let you down when you need it the most. A goal without accountability is a relationship without commitment

It is also very important not to start too many changes and habits overnight, as it is a sure way to fail. Decide to make 1 or 2 or 3 changes in 2021 and then stick to it. Don’t add new ones and don’t force change, because too much of it is also not good, and there is a huge probability you’ll abandon everything due to overload. Keep in mind that research says we need around 66 days to form a habit. Just stick to it and at the end of the year you can have 1 to 3 newly formed habits that will stay with you forever (if you want them ofc).

Above all, believe in yourself and that change is possible. It all starts with one decision and one small step.

Remember the words of the wise Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Start walking, my friend.

Some Good Habits I Implemented in My Life

It took me over 10 years to develop all the changes and good habits listed below, so give yourself time, patience, and accountability structure. 

  • exercise – started March 2010.
  • healthy eating habits – end of 2010.
  • counting food calories – January 2014.
  • reading at least 1 hour per day – I’ve been reading a lot my entire life but started strictly reading for at least one hour per day in 2015.
  • meditation – December 2016. 
  • cold showers – February 2017.
  • intermittent fasting – April 2017.
  • hugging my loved ones every day – April 2017.
  • stretching – October 2017.
  • tracking my sleep – October 2017. 
  • breathing exercises – September 2018.
  • daily affirmations and journaling – June 2020.
  • writing at least 5 to 6 days per week – the newly formed habit – November 2020.

and the most important one:

  • writing every single thing I do, every single day of the year – January 2017. 

With the last habit, I remain accountable and always know where I stand and what I need to improve.

I deeply believe in the saying: “You can’t improve, what you don’t measure”, by Peter Drucker, and I live by that quote.

P.S.: If you need an accountability partner, count me in.

 

Cheers!

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3 Responses

    1. I use Notes app where I write everything. That way I can see if I am improving or not. I would recommend Hours app to track your productivity.
      We need to strive to be better every single day.

      Cheers!

  1. Great info. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for
    later!

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