7 Tips to Actually Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions (Science-Backed)

 


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As the new year is fast approaching, many of us want to shed the old and start fresh. It is well known that most people who make New Year’s resolutions eventually break them. In fact, a survey done by FranklinCovey found that a third of those who make a resolution won’t even make it to the end of January!  

Here at Fitbod, we are huge devourers of data and research. Our app runs on an algorithm that incorporates more than 100 million data points* to give each and every user a personalized workout every time they open the Fitbod app.

In thinking about New Year’s resolutions, our approach is similar: look at the science behind what works for making changes to our lives.

Here’s a list of our top 7 tips for actually achieving your new year’s resolution:

  • Be Self-Aware

  • Think “Habit”, Not “Resolution”

  • Focus On The Small Wins

  • Incorporate Your Enviornment

  • Only Pick 1-3 Goals

  • Have Mini “Check-Ins” With Yourself

  • Believe In Yourself

Let’s discuss these further!


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1. Be Self-Aware

Before thinking about where you want to go, you have to understand where you are today. Self-awareness means a “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires”. In choosing New Year’s resolutions that you will actually keep, you need to understand your past actions, decisions and behavior.

Ask yourself questions like:

  1. What has led you to setting this year’s resolutions? Why do you want to achieve it?

  2. If you’ve tried to achieve this goal in the past, and failed, why did that happen? What were the circumstances and what can you do differently this time?

  3. What is your attitude toward achieving this specific goal?

As we’ll discuss next, attainable resolutions require a change in habits, which requires understanding and identifying your routines, cues and triggers.   

2. Think “Habit”, Not Resolution.

Common New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, eating better, saving more, quitting smoking, and the list goes on.

We make resolutions in order to change something in our present lives that we aren’t 100% satisfied with. William James, often called the “Father of American Psychology” says that our lives are “but a mass of habits”. That means that we need to be altering our old habits to meet our resolutions.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains how habits work using the habit loop. The habit loop is a cue which leads to a routine which leads to a reward and often generates a craving which further drives the loop. Duhigg describes how habits are so powerful because they create these neurological cravings. To change a habit, one uses the same cue and gets the same reward but alters the routine.

As an example, say your resolution is to exercise more, which requires carving out 30 minutes 3 times/week to go to the gym or for a run. To carve out 30 minutes, you would have to figure out how you currently spend your time and what routines you could replace with 30 minutes of exercising. If you realize that your habit after work is to go home, turn on the TV and prepare dinner, you could replace turning on the TV with exercising and get the same reward of a nice dinner afterward. As you repeatedly replace TV time with exercising, your old neurological patterns get overridden by new patterns and exercising in replacement of watching TV becomes a behavior done with little or no conscious thought.

3. Focus On The Small Wins

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu says that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step” and that absolutely applies to New Year’s resolutions.

Rather than making a huge broad-sweeping resolution such as “I will lose 25 pounds”, focus on small changes in your routines such as “I will exercise every Monday/Wednesday/Friday for 30 minutes after work before dinner” as per example above. For every 30 minute workout completed, track and celebrate the win! The simple act of logging the workout could be a reward in your brain that tells it this routine/loop is worth remembering for the future. Or the reward could be a nice dinner.

Eventually, additional rewards such as endorphins, weight loss, better health, increased energy, etc. come along as part of the exercise habit. But rather than focusing on these larger rewards, focus on the small changes. As Duhigg’s fellow author James Clear says, “if you can get 1% better each day, you can end up with some very remarkable results in the long run”.

By doing this we’re placing mor emphasis on the ‘process’ rather than the ‘outcome’. While the outcome is still important, it’s the process of many small steps that lead us to our goal.

4. Incorporate Your Environment

Clear says that to change a habit, you use the same cues and get the same rewards but alter your routine. The more obvious and familiar the cues, the easier it is to identify and the easier it is to substitute actions. This is the “Visibility Method” and we can use the example of flossing.

Instead of hiding floss in a drawer, switch the location to a bowl with pre-made flossers that are kept right next to your toothbrush. Since you brush your teeth daily, having the floss next to your toothbrush is such an obvious cue. This is an easy way to add flossing into your routine.

5. Only Pick 1-3 Goals

At the start of the year, we might be extermely motivated to completely turn around our lives.

While this is positive, it can sometimes be overwhelming if we’re trying to completely overhaul habits that are deeply engrained.

Therefore, we recommend setting a limited number of goals, somewhere between 1-3. This is because we want your goals to feel manageable and realistic. In addition, we want to have a sense of purpose and focus. The more goals we set, the more we might feel lost.

Even when setting multiple goals, you should only have one that is really important to you, which serves as your main priority. This is the goal that no matter what you want to achieve. The other goals should be secondary where your success isn’t so much dependant.


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6. Have Mini “Check-Ins” With Yourself

Set a calendar reminder for yourself on the 1st of each month and use that day as a mini check-in.

This day will be an opportunity to reflect on the previous month of progress. The most important things you’re reflecting on are the habits and processes discussed in this article.

  • Are you sticking with the habit you set out for yourself?

  • Are you focusing on the small wins?

  • Are you continuing to set up triggers to keep you on track?

You’ll use this information to then set your priorities for the next month, either expanding what you’ve already worked on, or getting back on track if you’ve lost focus.

7. Believe In Yourself.

Our last piece of advice is to believe in yourself.

To change your behavior
for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.

If your resolution is to wake up earlier, then the final step in making that resolution long-lasting is to change who you believe you are and believe that you are the type of person who wakes up early, who is an early bird.

Once your resolution becomes about your identity, the change becomes permanent. You start wanting to prove to yourself with small wins that you are who you believe you are and the results add up to something great.      


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Final Thoughts

One of the biggest takeaways is that the real power of habit is “the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be”. By taking it one step at a time, know that you have the power to change your life and evolve into the person you want to be!

Kick-start your New Year’s fitness resolution now with Fitbod!

*104 million data points as of December 2019; data points = exercises logged in the app

Sources:

Clear, James; “Atomic Habits”; 2018; Cornerstone

Clear, James; https://jamesclear.com/habits-visibility-method

Clear, James; https://jamesclear.com/identity-based-habits

Duhigg, Charles; “The Power of Habit”; 2012; Random House

Eyal, Nir; “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”; 2014; Penguin

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/will-your-resolutions-last-to-february/