Make your New Year’s Resolutions Stick
The 7 Keys to Lasting Change
The New Year represents an opportunity. It signifies a renewal. A rebirth for some. A fresh start for many. The New Year is a new beginning, or at least it appears that way.
As one year comes to a close, many people start to identify changes they want to make in the next one… We call these New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution means a firm decision to do or not to do something, and that is what many of our New Year’s Resolutions look like on the surface as we make our grand plans to lose weight, eat healthier, change careers, wake up earlier, stop smoking, exercise more, be a better person, the list goes on…
But we all know what happens. Those positive intentions whither away under the harsh reality of failed attempts, broken promises, and continued habits. Old patterns that could care less about a New Year. And so they persist, as those well-intentioned resolutions fall to the wayside.
It has become like a joke now, these resolutions. Our desired changes either start strong and flame out after a couple weeks, or they hardly start at all: today becomes tomorrow, which becomes next week and next month, until the Fall comes around and we turn our attention, yet again, to the New Year. Rinse and repeat.
Every time we fail to follow through on our goals, we weaken our integrity and self-efficacy until we feel helpless and lost. So lost that we need a different number at the end of the date just to give us permission to try again and hope that it might actually work this time.
This year it doesn’t have to be that way. This can be a year of reinvention and transformation. This can be the year you break free of your limitations and become your ideal self. With the right awareness, tools, and strategies, you can finally stick to your resolutions and accomplish your goals beyond the month of January.
In this article, we will share some of these key insights. But remember, these keys don’t only apply to the New Year, but to all of your desired changes, at any time of the year. Bookmark this article or print it out to keep it handy, help you on your journey, and remind yourself of this:
Every moment is an opportunity to change your life.
Here are the 7 keys for making your New Year’s Resolutions stick and creating change that lasts:
1. Know your “Why”
This first key is the most important. We often set goals without knowing why they are important to us. It’s crucial to know our reasons why, because, with strong enough reasons, we can do anything. It’s purpose that drives us and purpose that will help us stay the course when we don’t feel like it. No matter what your resolutions are, begin by identifying the reasons they are important to you. These reasons are rarely the goal itself, but the impact that it can have on your life. What would it mean for you to make that change? What would it mean for your quality of life and for the people you care about? Why is it important?
Once you identify your Why, write it down and put it somewhere you will see. This could be the background on your phone, a note on your nightstand or mirror, or a reminder that goes off everyday. The important part is to have strong reasons that are meaningful for you, and to remember those reasons daily.
2. Reverse engineer your Goals
A lot of our resolutions are far out in the distance. They involve a change we would like to experience in the future, which is exactly where they will remain unless you take action today. Our results, or outcomes, are the cumulative effects of our daily decisions and actions. Many people fail to realize this, and so they perceive distance between them and their goals. With this distance, it becomes easier to put things off and neglect your daily responsibilities toward achieving your resolutions.
Reverse engineering, as the name implies, is a scientific process for boiling down your resolutions into actionable steps. Start with your ultimate goal for yourself in the future and give yourself a target date. From there, work backwards. If your target date is 8 months out, where do you have to be in 4 months? What about next month, next week, and ultimately today? You must know what you have to do on a daily and weekly basis to get to where you want to be. Only then can you begin to implement those changes today. Otherwise you will always be chasing the horizon.
For instance, if your goal is to lose 16 pounds in 4 months, you can calculate that as 4 pounds a month or about 1 pound a week. You must then determine what your daily actions must look like to hit this weekly objective. What must your energy intake and expenditure be? What needs to change about your diet? What lifestyle adjustments do you need to make?
Daily action creates results, not hoping or wishing. A goal without action is only a dream. If your resolutions are in the future, do yourself a favor and translate those future goals into daily, actionable steps. Start here and now.
3. Create SMART Resolutions
Similarly, many of our New Year’s Resolutions are vague and unclear. This is limiting, because the less defined our goals, the more uncertain our required action becomes. Use the SMART strategy to craft crystal clear resolutions and increase your chances of success.
- Specific: Take time to map out the details of your resolution. Imagine you are creating a movie script. What does your resolution look like in action? What is needed to take those actions? How must you prepare? What might get in the way? Walk yourself through it, step-by-step.
- Measurable: As Peter Drucker states, “What gets measured gets managed.” We must be able to measure progress and success. Regardless of your resolutions, make sure you are clear on how you will measure them. Know what success looks like and come up with ways to consistently track your outcomes to ensure you are moving in the right direction. With plenty of mobile apps and health tracking devices, this is easier today more than ever.
- Attainable: The ambitious among us may have resolutions that are highly unlikely or not realistic. There’s nothing wrong with raising the bar, but there is a limit. Grandiose goals are often short-lived. They begin strong and are quickly humbled by reality. Goals that are too far out of reach are likely to backfire, and we want to maximize our chances for success. Remember, if you accomplish your goal, great, you can simply create a new one. It’s better to have consistent progress fuel your fire, rather than having the overwhelm of unattainable goals suffocate your flame.
- Relevant: Create resolutions that are relevant to your life, your interests, your goals, your needs, and your situation. Too often we adopt the resolutions of others, like the ones we see on social media or hear people talking about. Your resolutions must apply to you. They should be unique and personalized. You must connect with them and they must move you in the direction of the changes you want to make.
- Time-based: It is necessary to give yourself time-targets for your resolutions as well as the daily and weekly actions you have identified through reverse engineering. You must plan it and schedule it. Carve out time for your goals and protect that time at all costs. Say no to distractions and timesucks.
4. Make the Right Choices the Easiest
We are profoundly impacted by our environment. It influences our decisions more than most of us would care to admit. Willpower is overrated. It is also limited. It gets depleted overtime. This is why you are the most vulnerable to neglecting your goals after a stressful day at work, a busy time of year, or a hectic morning. Too often our resolutions rely on willpower alone, so it is no wonder why they ultimately fail or fade away. To ensure success, we must create an environment that supports our resolutions. In other words, curate your environment so the right choices are easy and the wrong choices are difficult.
For example, putting your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed when it goes off in the morning can help prevent you from snoozing (some alarm apps have tasks you must complete as well). Want to eat healthier? Eliminate all unhealthy options from the household. When you are hungry for a snack, you will have to find creative solutions (banana slices with peanut butter and chia seeds) rather than easily grabbing for the bag of chips. From packing your gym bag the night before to prepping smoothie packs, there are countless ways to pave the road to successful change.
5. Don’t let a Slip-up take you Off-Course
We are human, and so we make mistakes. We are not always rational. Sometimes we give-in. We slip-up. But a one-time mistake is no reason for a week-long detour. We chunk time in our minds based on the way we have organized society in days, weeks, months, and years. Because of this, a poor decision in the morning sometimes leads us to believe that the entire day is “shot.” A bad Wednesday becomes a bad week. “Let’s start again on Monday,” we will say. We put things off and use a simple shortcoming as an excuse to relinquish all efforts until the clock resets.
But remember this: every moment is an opportunity to begin again. With every breath we can choose something different for ourselves. It doesn’t have to wait until that pack of cigarettes is finished or that box of cookies is gone. It doesn’t have to wait until Monday or until after the Holidays. It doesn’t have to wait until the New Year. Right now, you can change your life. Right now, you can choose a different path.
Decision means “to cut off,” meaning you remove all other options. Right now, you can decide to make your life better. Right now, you can decide to change. That decision is always available to you in this moment. Remember that and you will find your power.
6. Condition the Change
Changing for a week or a day (or an hour) is one thing, but it’s an entirely different beast to create change that lasts. This is the most obvious when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. This is why we see the gyms packed in January, only to go back to normal a month or two later. This is why we see people fluctuating back-and-forth with diet and weight. This is why we see people reverting back to their conditioned patterns after countless efforts to change.
We are habitual creatures. Our ways of behaving and thinking have been conditioned by our environment and reinforced overtime with every repetition.
To change, we must overwrite our old patterns with new ones. The only way to do this is to be relentlessly consistent. We must make a habit out of the required actions needed to achieve our goals. We must make our resolutions a lifestyle. To do so, it is important to track our consistency until it becomes automatic. Use a journal, planner, calendar, or habit app (we like Habit Bull) to mark your progress as you strive to transform these changes into routines.
There are various theories on how long it takes to form a habit, but at some point you will notice a shift, in which the changes that used to be difficult are now automatic. They no longer require willpower. In fact, it becomes harder to not do it. This is the path to lasting change.
7. Get Accountable
We are rarely as accountable to ourselves as we are to others. If you reflect on your own decisions and priorities, you will probably find that you often respond to the needs of others more than your own, whether it be pressure from your boss, children, parents, colleagues, or partners. Meanwhile, when it comes to our own goals, it becomes alarmingly easy to brush them off as we get swept-up in the demands of life. This goes for our New Year’s Resolutions, as well as all of our goals.
One of the most effective strategies for following through on your resolutions is to create accountability. Find a trusted friend or someone in your life who you can share your goals and check-in with. Invite them to do the same. Schedule times to touch-base on this throughout the week so you have someone to answer to besides yourself, as well as someone to support you in making progress.
Another option is to create consequences for yourself. Positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative reinforcement, so try creating rewards for following through on your resolution plans. Maybe this means watching your favorite television show after an evening workout, or a cheat meal after a week of clean eating, or a new pair of shoes after a month of going to bed early.
The Master Key: Alchemy Total Wellness
One of the best ways to experience extraordinary results is to work with a professional and utilize proven services to help you succeed. At Alchemy Total Wellness, we specialize in helping people create lasting transformations in their lives through our holistic approach that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit. We offer services in-person and remotely, with different options to meet your needs, goals, and preferences. With the New Year among us, there is no better time to join our community and work with our team. We currently offer:
- Personal Training
- Life Coaching
- Group Classes
- Wellness Courses
To browse our class schedule, download our mobile app here.
We look forward to speaking with you.
Wishing you a Happy New Year full of joy, fulfillment, peace, and success,
Alchemy Total Wellness