How to Make Your New Years’ Resolutions Stick

How to Make Your New Years’ Resolutions Stick

How to Make Your New Years’ Resolutions Stick

2021 has been another challenging year and the start of 2022 looks set to be blighted yet again by Covid-19. It’s easy to make excuses for not changing your behaviour and the coronavirus pandemic can easily become a reason for not fulfilling your goals or achieving what you want.  However, as Covid-19 doesn’t look to be abating anytime soon, before you know it, yet another year may have flown by, and more ambitions may have been put on hold while you languish working from home and feeling demotivated.  New Year's Resolutions are a good way to try to focus on taking positive action to achieve your potential.

Apparently 67% of us make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% keep them.  So, what are the real reasons we fall off the wagon when we’ve decided to have a dry January, or to give up smoking, or to cut down on sugary snacks or exercise more?  Normally we make broad and unrealistic goals, such as trying to lose weight or give up alcohol in January when the fridge and cupboards are still full of leftovers from Christmas to tempt us, the weather isn’t too good, and the Summer holidays seem a long way off, so motivation wanes and you feel like treating yourself. 

It’s also down to us not being able to break long-standing habits, which we may have learned from our parents/guardians/friends/colleagues.  Frequently we try to change some of these habits and fail abysmally because it seems easier to order a take-away and sit in front of the TV on a cold dark night, rather than to have a healthier meal and go for a run or do a yoga class after a long day at work or on Zoom calls. 

Much research has been conducted on how we form habits and routines, develop cravings or addictions, and struggle to change our behaviour.  In his book ‘The Power of Habit’ Charles Duhigg explains how the brain converts a sequence of actions into a habit to save us time and effort and limit decision making.  Each day we don’t consciously think about how we carry out up to 40% of tasks, from cleaning our teeth to taking the same route to work, but certain behaviours, habits, routines, and cravings become deeply ingrained and therefore are difficult to change. 

In order to alter these habits and behaviours it’s necessary to take time out to examine them and identify what causes the habit to form, then change and replace the ‘reward’.  The key is to really believe that you can change, for example, if you want to stop always having a couple of alcoholic drinks every day after work, a different ‘reward’ should be found to replace the habit; obviously this takes willpower and self-control.  As psychologist Mark Muraven said: ‘Willpower isn’t a skill.  It’s a muscle…and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left for other things.’  So, it’s important to make small changes at first, such as eliminating alcohol from one evening a week to begin with or cutting down to one glass an evening and replacing this with something else.

So, how can you achieve your Goals and make your New Year’s Resolutions stick in 2022?

Making New Year’s resolutions involves deciding to change our behaviour, the most common resolutions being ‘I want to be happier’, ‘I want to lose weight’, ‘I want more of a work-life balance.  However, changing behaviour also involves changing your attitude and mindset first and starting to think differently; therefore, to have more chance of success it is best to phrase your resolutions and goals in a positive way and approach them with a view to learning a new skill rather than giving something up.  

So, instead of just saying ‘I want to be thinner or to stop smoking’, write down your goal in a positive way, such as ‘I want to learn to eat more healthily by using my new juicer, trying out new low-calorie recipes with the help of my family/neighbour, in order to lose 2 kilos a month each month so I’ll look great for my beach holiday on 1st July.’   The key is the ‘How and When’ are you going to reach your goals.  If you’re planning on going on a diet, always check with your physician first.

To make your resolutions stick in 2022 and assist you in achieving your goals use the 5 Point Plan below:

1. Write down your Goals and focus on between 5 – 6 maximum.

Check your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed) by asking yourself these questions:

  • What exactly am I going to do, with or for whom?
  • What plans or strategies will I use to achieve my goals?
  • Are my goals described with action verbs?
  • How will I know that the change has occurred?
  • How achievable and realistic is the goal?
  • Do I have the resources available to achieve this goal? If not, how can I get them?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?
  • Is the goal aligned with my own or my family’s/team’s/the organisation’s goals?
  • When will this goal be accomplished?

2. To ensure that you reach your goals, you have to be committed. 

Ask yourself how committed you are on a scale of 1 – 10.  If it’s not 10/10 then ask yourself why not.  If someone else is suggesting you change, chances are that you won’t. 

3. Be honest with yourself. 

Only make realistic and achievable goals otherwise you will get disillusioned very quickly.  Enlist support from family/friends/colleagues to ensure you keep to your resolutions.

4. Use positive affirmations to overcome ‘automatic negative thoughtsor inner negative head chatter. 

So, if your goal is to lose weight, replace ‘I’ll never be able to lose weight because I love crisps and cakes’ with ‘I’m going to enjoy trying out new healthy/low-fat recipes'. Ask yourself what you can do to change to overcome your limiting beliefs, such as ‘I’ll always be bigger than I’d like.’

5. Accept you’re human! 

Chances are that you will regress, especially in times of stress or on a cold, dark, wet, gloomy Monday morning in January!  In fact, most resolutions are abandoned by 17th January.  So, when this happens, don’t just give in and listen to your negative voice ‘I knew you wouldn’t be able to stick to the new diet!’   Instead learn from this blip, remember that it takes at least 21 days to break a habit so ask yourself what you will do differently the next time.

‘I really didn’t think that I could change.  But with your tools and techniques, added to your enthusiasm and encouragement, I am now fitter and so much more confident.  As a result, I applied for the promotion and am happy to say I got it!  Thank you! Head of Department  

Stay positive, stay safe!

About Jill Maidment

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