New Year’s Resolutions: How to Build New Habits and Stick to Them

We’re already a month into the new year so if you made any new year’s resolutions, now is the time for a progress check. Admittedly, I have my doubts about the whole yearly resolutions business, but that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of taking up residence at the gym. If, like me, you have half-baked plans for the new year that you haven’t quite started in January, I have good news for you: you’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, and here is your gameplan to making and not flaking on your new habits.

  1. 1. Set a realistic, measurable method to reach your goal.

    The trick to setting a measurable goal is figuring out and differentiating between what you want to achieve big-picture and how to get there. For example, take my not-so-secret desire to become a gym rat. The main reason why I want to start going to the gym is because I want to be healthier. I can’t really measure my health, but what I can measure is the number of times I go to the gym. So, my overall goal would be to get healthier and my method goal would be to go to the gym at least two times a week.

    Now, the goal should be realistic. Getting healthier is definitely a realistic goal. The number of times that I aim to go to the gym, however, should be made in consideration of how much I work out right now. Say I don’t work out at all (a totally hypothetical scenario). Telling myself that I’ll go to the gym five times a week for three hours each time would be overly ambitious. As much as I’d like to push myself, if I’m being real, I probably would fall short of the five workouts per week goal, feel discouraged and give up. So, it’s better to set a goal of two times per week, which is more than I’m doing right now and is also feasible and not too intimidating. In other words, be optimistic and realistic!

  2. 2. Set your expectations.

    As much as I love enthusiasm and inspiration, I also know that humans are … human. Just because past-me was feeling herself when she decided to go to the gym every week doesn’t mean that future-me will. In other words, measurable goal or not, I’m bound to slip up. Expect to mess up, but know that messing up doesn’t have to mean failure if you keep trying.

  3. 3. Prepare.

    There’s a reason why the training montage is such an overused film trope. To pull off the heist, the Ocean’s crew had to plan and practice first. Trying to start a new habit is really hard -- heist-level hard. So, especially if present-you are still feeling motivated and inspired, make things easier for future-you by planning ahead! My goal is to get healthier by going to the gym two times a week, so I’ll prioritize gym time in my schedule by blocking out a two-hour chunk on two days of each week. The day before gym days, I’ll pack my gym bag with everything that I’ll need so that I can head out the door with minimal fuss. Make your goal as easy as possible for yourself beforehand!

  4. 4. Find an accountability partner.

    Find a friend or mentor to hold you to your word. I like to choose people whom I can trust to be responsible enough to check in with me every other week or so, but whom I would also feel a healthy amount of shame in admitting to my short-comings (the shame-to-responsibility balance is absolutely critical). Ideally, find somebody to do your resolution with! Either way though, you’ll have someone to hold you accountable.

  5. 5. Have self-discipline.

    Sometimes you’re not going to feel like doing whatever it is you need to get done. Not to sound like your parent, but that’s where self-discipline comes in, kid. Tell yourself that if you do it today, you won’t have to do it tomorrow. Countdown from 10 and kick start yourself into action if you have to. Waiting to feel like doing something won’t make it happen, especially if it’s something you don’t usually do. Sometimes, you just have to push past how you feel, and get it going. You’ll feel accomplished and proud of yourself afterward!

  6. 6. Reward yourself!

    You want to make it as easy as possible for you to meet your goals. An effective and fun way to do so? Treat yourself! Granted, “treat yoself” has become an overused joke about consumerism in our culture. Done right, though, rewarding yourself is a great way to summon motivation and incentivize action. If I go to the gym, I’ll let myself watch my favorite TV show afterward or eat a nice meal. But, self-discipline is going to come back into play here. Resist giving yourself the nice thing before you’ve worked on your goal. Things really are more satisfying after working for them.

  7. 7. Forgive yourself for messing up.

    Like I said before, we know we’re going to mess up. So it’s important that when we do, we don’t throw in the towel or beat ourselves up over it. Remember, doing something toward your goal is 100% better than doing nothing. Even if I go to the gym just one time next week, I may not meet my two-times-per-week goal, but I’ll definitely be healthier than if I didn’t go at all. Forgive yourself for being human and remember: there’s always tomorrow.