New Year’s resolutions; are they made to be broken? For most of us, they usually are. But how is it that we can create resolutions that survive the year and we actually follow through on?

The average time a person can expect to keep a New Year’s resolution is a measly 24 days – not even one whole month. So how is it that we can change this and sustain our promise to ourselves? We need to make things easier for ourselves by following some simple guidelines. Let me explain.

Make resolutions you are willing to keep

The first step is the most straight-forward, but one that we often fall short on. It’s easy to make resolutions that sound good, such as giving up drinking, quitting smoking, losing 5kg and training to run a marathon, however these may not necessarily be resolutions we actually want to keep and don’t fit into our lifestyle. They may involve other sacrifices in our life that we are simply not willing to make.

This means you must make resolutions that actually make sense to you and fit the lifestyle you have or that you want to have. If you enjoy socialising with your friends on a Friday and Saturday night and don’t think you can enjoy it in the same way without alcohol, then giving up alcohol is not going to be a resolution that you can keep. Perhaps instead you want to reduce your alcohol intake by half. Maybe training to run a marathon is a tall order, since you haven’t run in a few years; making a resolution of running for 30 minutes every other night may be more realistic and something you are more willing to do.

Make resolutions specific enough to avoid excuses

When we are trying to make changes in our life that are outside of our comfort zone, we will subconsciously be looking for excuses to avoid doing it. If there is some ‘wiggle room’ in your resolution, you will certainly find it and take advantage of it.

To avoid this, we need to make resolutions that are specific and not ambiguous. We don’t want to allow ourselves to take advantage of an ambiguous goal and find reasons why our detrimental behaviour is acceptable. For example, if you set a resolution to lose some weight, you will find yourself falling into the same habits as you were doing before, as there is no specific change you need to make.

On the other hand, if you changed your resolution to eating a specific amount of calories less each week and doing 30 minutes exercise every night, there is no room for excuses. You either follow your resolution or you don’t. This sort of specific goal-setting adds the comfortable pressure you need to not bail-out on your ambitions.

Turn your resolution into a habit

In my article How the Next 66 Days Can Change Your Life I explained how we can make changes in our lives by creating habits. As we all know, habits are extremely hard to break, so taking this approach will save you a lot of effort in the long-run.

“Have you ever noticed how someone that bites their fingernails will always struggle to stop, no matter how much they want to? This is because it has become a habit, which means it is incredibly hard to stop that activity taking place. It’s as if your mind and body are compelled to do that specific task, as if it is a routine.

Wouldn’t it be great to only have good habits? I mean, habits that you really want to have; that will improve your life significantly.

That’s great, because you can have those good habits.

Studies published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that, on average, a new habit is formed after 66 days of performing the task daily (this is often cited as 21 days, but actually this is closer to the lower end of the scale, rather than being the average). It does not matter if a mistake is made one day either; as long as the majority of the time, the task is performed, then the habit will be developed.”

Make your changes stick by habit-stacking

Sometimes it can be difficult to just add something to your daily routine and hope it becomes a habit after 66 days. When will you find the time to add it to your routine? How will you remember to include the change? How will you remain disciplined to follow through on it?

The answer to this is to do habit-stacking. This involves adding a habit you want to create on top of an existing habit. This helps facilitate the easy adoption of new habits by integrating it with something already ‘hard-wired’ into your mind. This also makes it easier to see how the change will benefit your life and fit into your current routine.

For example, if your New Year resolution is to stay more up-to-date with current affairs, you may want to attach that to a habit you already have in your morning routine. Therefore: “After I make my coffee in the morning, I will read the newspaper for 20 minutes”, will suit your current routine and be more likely to be integrated into your life.

To take this approach, write a list of what habits you already have in your daily routine and then a second list of new habits your wish to adopt. Then it’s just a case of matching habits to where they fit best.

Learn new skills in 20 hours to fit your busy schedule

Some resolutions involve learning a new skill, which we are soon put-off from since it can take so long to get to a level we are content with. It has often been said that getting world-class at a new skill takes 10,000 hours of practice, however this is no longer the case and by taking a different approach you can cut that down to 20 hours.

Josh Kaufman explains the approach in his book The First 20 Hours (first20hours.com) which I would highly recommend to give you a push in the right direction.
Kaufman’s framework for learning a skill ensures you stay dedicated to the task, as well as breaking down the skill into the essential parts that mean you can learn quicker and more effectively. Although, in the end, you still need to stay committed to putting in the necessary practice to achieve anything – nothing in life comes without putting in the work.

Share your resolution to increase your accountability

This is the last point that will help you stick to your New Year resolutions: tell your friends and family!
By telling people about your resolution, you will add some friendly pressure to yourself to stick to it. If you ask a friend to track your progress, or even pair with a friend or family member to tackle a resolution together, you increase your accountability and therefore increase your chances of success.

There is often nothing more motivating than proving people wrong; we don’t want to look like a failure, particularly to friends and family. So take ownership of your resolution and share your goals with the people around you – you may even inspire others to make a positive change to their lives too.

******

By following these easy steps, you will surely make your New Year’s resolutions easier to manage and maintain. Let’s all focus on getting past the first 24 days for a start, so that we excel beyond the average and then we set new milestones after that.

This time next year, you could be living the life you want to live, but just remember that the most important thing is to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Happy New Year!

The Duomo Initiative (www.duomoinitiative.com)

Author's Bio: 

Nicholas Puri is Director at The Duomo Initiative. With a focus in the areas of trading, investing, personal finance and mindset, Nicholas helps people transform their lives and create stability in all areas.