Each New Year, millions of people set a resolution to get in shape, start a new career, find love, and achieve other personal goals. And, unfortunately, millions of people often fail rather quickly. But, when we examine how people make resolutions, it's not hard to understand why.
When someone generally makes a New Year's resolution, they develop a lofty goal accompanied with lofty plans to achieve their goals. However, when we create a plan that involves modifying our behavior radically overnight, we're setting ourselves up for failure, and we'll naturally have tremendous inner resistance towards that plan. The moment we miss a step, that resistance will lead us to abandon the entire goal quickly. No wonder more than 80 percent of people drop their New Year's resolutions by the second week of February!
Focus on Positive Habit Formation
Rather than resolutions, work to foster winning habits and start small at first. For instance, instead of vowing to lose weight, try adding one more fruit or vegetable to your plate than you would typically eat. Or resolve to walk an hour a day or exercise 30 minutes more than you normally would.
Habits are psychologically easier for us to develop and build into our daily activities than the multi-step plans resolutions call for. Abstract resolution goals such as "losing weight" can feel overwhelming by contrast, when we say we're going to eat an apple a day, the habit feels simple as well as achievable and concrete. Once our apple eating becomes an automatic part of our morning routine, we'll barely notice we are doing it!
By the end of the month, when we've eaten dozens of apples, we've notched a win — the kind of victory that's essential for building mental resilience. When we are faced with a challenge and are tempted to quit, referring back to victories (large or small) can help buoy us mentally enough to persist. When we approach our specific tasks by developing small, easy habits that will get us there, we face less inner resistance towards accomplishing our goal.
Build a Plan By Building Habits
Instead of developing an elaborate and sophisticated plan to achieve your New Year's resolutions, jot down some habits that will get you there. Again, start small and simple. Once you become comfortable, add a few more habits into the mix. Before you know it, your newfound habits will help you hit all of your goals. Perhaps more importantly, you'll have developed habits that will continue to improve your lifestyle over time, as well as strengthen your mental well-being. These are a few reasons why it's time to throw out resolutions and stick to positive habit formation instead.