The beginning of 2021 was a little bit like opening your baby’s door to check on them. You c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y turn the door handle, slooooowly open the door, and hold your breath while you tiptoe towards the bed.
Even though many of us fell into some bad habits (personally, I enjoyed a few months of comfort eating fried meals at 10 PM every night), we were nervous about setting resolutions in a world that feels unpredictable.
And if there’s anything we learned in 2020, it’s that we should have grace with ourselves.
New Year’s Resolutions vs. Habit Building
It’s mid-February. How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolution?
For some reason, we think of resolutions differently than we think of goals. Obviously you can set a goal at any time, but the idea of creating a New Year’s Resolution past January 1st? DON’T BE RIDICULOUS.
Studies show that 36% of people who make resolutions quit by the end of January, and that number only increases–drastically–as the year goes on.
Since this year is different in every way, it seems like a good time to reevaluate this whole goal-setting tradition.
5 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Fail
When your New Year’s Resolution fails, you might tell yourself it was because you were too lazy or you have no self-control. Well, you can tell that inner critic of yours to shut up, because that’s probably not the real reason anyway.
Goals and resolutions fail when:
- You only made the resolution because of the date
- You didn’t identify your “why” behind your resolution
- You didn’t plan the steps (thinking “hm, I should eat healthier” on December 28th is not a plan)
- You made TOO MANY resolutions or TOO MUCH of one resolution
- You relied on motivation (motivation will always come and go–no matter how much or how little self-control you have)
How to Build a Habit (That Sticks)
First of all, evaluate how serious you are about sticking to this goal. New Year’s Resolutions just seem synonymous with giving up–you might not even want to THINK about your goal this way.
Instead, don’t think about a goal or resolution. But think about building a habit. When important things are built, they don’t go from dirt to a house in a day. They make progress, little by little, until something incredible has been done. Habits, goals, and resolutions are no different.
Here are 4 ways to build a habit:
- Set Small Goals. This DOES NOT mean you have low expectations for yourself. Watch this 9-minute MIND-BLOWING video about tiny habits to learn more.
- Plan before you start. In Atomic Habits (another LIFE-CHANGING resource), James Clear has an entire chapter dedicated to the way your environment affects your habits. It’s possible that your goals are significantly more achievable if you change the location of the vegetables in your fridge, your access to a credit card, or anything else. Do the work BEFORE you start to specify the concrete, daily steps you need to reach your goal.
- Reward yourself. I’m not just suggesting this because I think you’re awesome and you deserve it (I do)–on a neurological level, you need a shot of dopamine to build a long-term habit. It’s SCIENCE.
- Start again when you mess up. One of my favorite lines from Atomic Habits is this: “Never underestimate the power of just showing up.” You don’t have to be 100% at every moment or every day. You WILL mess up. You WILL miss days. You might even miss a week–that doesn’t have to be the end. If you keep going, that missed week will just be a blip on the radar.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve already started and quit a New Year’s Resolution–you’re in good company.
Instead of throwing your entire goal away, adjust. Think about why it didn’t work the first time, and move forward. You can do that no matter what the calendar says.