Do New Year's Resolutions Work?

New Year’s resolutions tend to flop and there’s a reason why. They are too hard to carry throughout the year. According to studies, 64% of people carry out their resolutions halfway through the year and only 8% carry them out until the end of the year. The hack? Make them simpler by breaking them down. 

Instead of making your resolution to exercise more (that’s quite hard!), try tacking onto another habit you have so that it makes the burden less cumbersome. For example, if you already go on walks after lunch then try adding an extra 10 minutes to your walk every day. Small changes are easier to do than big, hairy changes like changing your entire routine. 

Creating habits is a science and like science, there is a method. According to BJ Fogg and Charles Duhigg there are three steps to forming a new habit.

  1. Choose a specific, small action. Eating healthier is not small and is very vague. This is the reason why New Year's resolutions don't end up working out. If you’re wanting to create a new habit it must be small. For example, instead of ‘eating healthier’ you can ‘eat spinach smoothies for breakfast 4x per week.  
  2. Attach the new action to a previous habit. Find a habit you already have that’s well established and add to it. For example, if you already go for a walk 3 times a week, then adding on 10 more minutes to the existing walk connects the new habit to an existing one. The existing habit "Go for walk" now becomes the "cue" for the new habit: "Walk 10 more minutes." Your new "stimulus-response" is Go For Walk (Stimulus) followed by "Add 10 minutes." Your existing habit of "walk through door at office" can now become the "cue" or stimulus for the new habit of "walk up a flight of stairs." Your existing habit of "Walk into the kitchen in the morning" can now be the stimulus for the new habit of "Make a spinach smoothie."
  3. Make the new action easy to do. When you create a habit you need to practice the new action at least 3-7 times before it starts to ‘stick’ on it’s own.  To get your habit to stick, the new action needs to be as easy as possible. To help you with this, you could put spinach and all your smoothie ingredients ready to go in one spot in the fridge so that its really easy to make it in the mornings.

If you take these 3 things into consideration then your new actions will stick when you practice them 3-7 times in a row and they become a well-formed habit.