We are now approaching the year’s end. For me, it is a time to look over the past and focus on the new year. Like many of you, I consider what lifestyle changes I can add as part of my “New Year’s resolutions.” For some of you, it might be exercising more, starting a meditation practice, or saving more money. For others, it might be calling old friends, eating healthier, or making time for yourself. Perhaps you once embraced the idea of New Year’s resolutions, but after falling flat year after year, you have given up the practice.
The question everyone asks you is “what is your resolution?” but not “how are you going to do that?” How do you achieve better success? One study from Dr. Gail Matthews looked at 267 subjects in the arena of goal setting. She found that of the individuals or groups that wrote down their goals and shared weekly updates about these goals, had a seventy percent success rate compared to the thirty-five percent success for those who kept their goals to themselves. The author concluded that writing goals down, ongoing commitment to the goals, and external accountability improved the success rate.
A second approach is the idea of “habit stacking” which is promoted by several experts on behavior change. With this practice, you link a desired behavior to a current behavior. For example, you take on that set of push-ups or meditation practice right after your AM shower or brushing your teeth. Start small with your change and then build up gradually. By pairing a new behavior with something you are already doing consistently, you improve your odds of the new behavior sticking.
Writing down goals, telling others your intentions, and pairing behaviors are all ways to improve the success of your resolutions.
These ideas are just a few approaches to start making change real. So when you are sitting around on New Year’s Eve, considering what you want to do differently in the new year, take time to consider how you might make this change rather than just what you wish to tackle -a little time on the how might help you move you toward breaking your resolution failures of the past.