Research from the University of Scranton suggests that only 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Fortunately, there’s a way to beat those odds!
Most people make resolutions that are either too vague or too complicated. A vague resolution doesn’t have a measurable outcome goal, which makes it impossible to formulate behaviors that will actually support that outcome. A complicated goal overwhelms the prefrontal cortex, leading to higher stress/cortisol reactions and reduced willpower. Translation: “That chocolate cake is calling my name!”
To successfully reach a goal, your prefrontal cortex must be trained to handle the new information in a logical and stress-free manner. The key is to look at your resolution and set a “habit” around that resolution. Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days for a habit to become automatic. Once that habit is being performed efficiently and without conscious thought, you can safely add a new habit surrounding your ultimate goal.
Let’s take the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2017 and provide an example of one simple behavioral habit that could have made a huge difference and led to a better overall outcome:
Diet or eat healthier
Each meal, eat a green vegetable before anything else. By getting the proper nutrients into your body, sugar cravings will eventually go away on their own.
Set an hourly reminder to take a quick walk; schedule one hour of additional exercise on the weekends; walk places whenever possible.
Cut out one sugary drink per day and replace with water.
Save more and spend less
Set up an automatic deposit from each paycheck into your savings account; cut out one indulgence per week.
Learn a new skill or hobby
Sign up for a class.
Replace your afternoon cigarette with a brisk walk and a glass of water.
Read one magazine article or chapter of a book every evening before bed.
Find another job
Research and submit your resume to two potential companies each week.
Drink less alcohol
Cut daily/weekly alcohol consumption in half.
Spend more time with loved ones
Schedule 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with your family every day; plan an outing with friends each week.
These are obviously just examples of one simple behavioral habit. Yours may be a little different, but if you follow the basic principle, you will enact permanent and painless change! And remember — once the habit is being done efficiently and without conscious thought, it is time to add another behavioral habit to master.