Even the more determined souls among us find that New Year’s resolutions aren’t effective.
Some of us don’t even bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore because we always break them. Mark Twain famously wrote in a letter to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise in January 1863,
New Year’s Day: now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual … New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions.
When we try to change everything at once, we set ourselves up for failure
We make bold resolutions to start exercising or losing weight, for example, without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. Behavioral scientists who study habit formation argue that most people try to create healthy habits in the wrong way. Starting a new routine isn’t always easy.
Stanford University researcher B. J. Fogg, the author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything (2019,) notes that jumping cold turkey into new beginnings upon the turn of the calendar demands a high level of motivation that can’t be sustained over time. He recommends starting with tiny habits to help make the new habit as easy and achievable as possible in the beginning.
Small Measures, Large Results
Small, specific goals are amazingly effective. Making a New Year’s resolution to “run a marathon this summer” is an imposing aspiration to get started on, but committing to “run two miles in 30 minutes thrice a week in January” is a first operating objective.
Break any big challenge into simple steps and just focus on getting to the first step. Taking a daily short stroll could be the beginning of an exercise habit. Then, regroup and think about step two.
The truth is, if you invest time and have even a little bit of success in any endeavor, you’re both more likely to believe the changes will last and commit more. Success builds momentum.
Idea for Impact: Good habits happen when we set ourselves up for achievable success.
Bold promises and vague goals don’t work well. Neither does beating up on yourself for lapses.
Make New Year’s resolutions by establishing long-term targets and making many small resolutions all year round. If you want to lose weight, resolve to pass up nacho-and-cheese and soda for a month.
Take one baby step at a time. Expect some setbacks. The willpower necessary will be small. And you’ll get better results that’ll actually stick.
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