How to make New Year’s Resolutions that last

By Graeme Codrington 

It’s a new year, and for many people that means going through the charade of “new year’s resolutions”. As the calendar year ticks over, it’s as good a time as any to take stock, make some changes and commit yourself to making the year ahead a good one. But for most people, their resolutions don’t last beyond the middle of January. We can do better. Here are six secrets of people who actually manage to keep those new years resolutions:

1. Small, daily changes are best

Aim to change just one small daily habit at a time in 2018. Rather than aiming to make a massive 100% change to some aspect of your life, rather aim to install a new daily habit with a goal of 1% change a day. For example, instead of a resolution to “read more books” in 2018, make a decision to spend 10 minutes reading every day. It’s easier to do something that requires a daily small adjustment, rather than a massive lifestyle change. By the way, for the rest of January and February, whatever your resolution is for daily change, do that thing first each morning. Don’t do anything else in your day, until that thing has been completed. When you feel you’ve started to get into the rhythm of your first goal, add another one. You don’t have to wait until 1 January to make a new resolution.

2. Remind yourself daily about your resolutions

Find a few ways to remind yourself that you have decided to change your daily habits. This could include putting a recurring reminder in your diary or mobile phone alarms, or post-it notes on your fridge, or a poster on your wall. Many people find that using a journal they write in every day, where the first page has a small “to do list” for daily habits, forces them to slow down, focus and remember their resolutions. Some people find that having accountability partners helps them - doing the daily activity with someone, or at least having someone who will ask you whether you’ve done it or not, can be just what you need for motivation.

3. Be specific about your plan

There are four key things you need for each goal you have:

  1.  Be specific about what the bad habit is that you want to change. For example, “I check Facebook too many times each day.” This is not specific enough. You don’t want to stop checking Facebook completely, so how many times is too many? How much time do you spend on Facebook a day, or why is that a problem? Be more specific about the problem you’re trying to solve. e.g. “I spend 2 hours a day looking at Facebook, and get no real value from most of this time.”
  2. Identify what the cue for your bad behaviour is: when do I spend too much wasted time on Facebook? Is it when I am tired? Or feeling lonely? Or bored?
  3. What reward do you get for doing this: What does the bad habit do for you that causes you to do back to it time and time again? for example: I feel connected to my friends when I check Facebook.
  4. The way to change the behaviour: With the information from the three questions above, identify ways you can break bad habits and create new ones. You want to find alternative ways to get your “reward”, find ways to break the routine that the cue sparks for you, and then be specific about solving the problem you identified. For example, When I feel lonely, I will phone or send a text message to a friend instead of checking Facebook. I will only check Facebook on the hour for five minutes every other hour. 

It’s probably best to write these things down, and also discuss them with people who know you well and can help you think through them. And make sure you come out with a clear, specific plan.

4. Make failure difficult

What are the consequences for you if you don’t succeed in your resolution? Of course, there will be long term consequences - which is why you’re making the resolution. But a goal of changing your diet so you lose some weight is about your health years from now. Or resolving to do more online courses is about your future career. How can you ensure that these resolutions have short term implications too? For many people, this involves creating some short term pain in they fail to keep to their resolutions.

There are apps you can get, for example, that allow you to set up a donation that gets paid if you miss a goal - you then set up a sizeable donation to an organisation you really don’t like (for example, I am planning to set up a donation to the Donald Trump 2020 re-election campaign if I miss my weight loss target). You can also post your goals on social media and get people to hold you accountable because you went public. I did that last year by telling everyone I had signed up for a marathon in September, and then posting my training schedule online. Or you could just get an accountability partner to do this for you privately.

5. Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t give up

In advance, remind yourself that you are not perfect. You’re not going to get this right all the time. Do not allow one slip up to become an excuse to give up completely. If you miss a session, just go to the next one. If you miss a lesson, just catch it up and keep going. Don’t give up, and don’t give yourself reasons to stop.

6. Know your why - and make it a BIG one

People who make long-term changes stick with these habit shifts because there’s something about their goals that speak to the kind of person they want to become. For example, your doctor may tell you to lose some weight and move a little more, but if you’re just following her instructions you’ll be only too happy to give up when it gets tough. But if you’ve decided you want to be a grandparent who can get down on the floor and play with your grandkids, you’ll be much more likely to choose to do something active on a regular basis.

So, make 2018 your breakthrough year. We know for sure how much the world is changing, and it demands of us that we change too. Regularly, consistently, deliberately and intentionally.

Free webinar: Be prepared to lose your job in the future, if you don’t do these three things this year

If today's Tuesday Tip resonated with you then we invite you to join our free webinar, hosted by Graeme Codrington, tomorrow Wednesday 10th Jan.

As we start a new year, we know for sure that 2018 is going to be a rollercoaster year. You don’t need any special futurist skills to work that one out. The world is moving faster than ever before, changing more dramatically now than ever, and it’s not getting easier either. If we’re going to be successful in 2018, and in the years to come, there are at least three key skills we need to learn as quickly as possible.

Join Graeme Codrington, futurist, author and speaker on the future of work, for a one hour webinar to kickstart your 2018

What you’ll learn:

The three skills Graeme will focus your attention on are:

1. Understanding what’s changing - and what’s not
Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk all ask themselves this one question regularly: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” But more importantly, they also ask: “what’s NOT going to change?” Knowing how - and why - the world around us is changing is vital to our success. Graeme will share key insights from the team of futurists he works with, explaining how they keep ahead of trends and showing you how you can do this too.

2. Focus on developing skills for the future of work - not the past
Are you sure you know which skills will be in demand in 2020 and 2025, and do you know how to develop these skills for yourself? If robots and algorithms are going to replace many of the jobs that people do today, how can you ensure you’re not one of casualties in the future of work?

3. Create daily habits that set you apart
Graeme will share some really practical ideas of how to restructure your working day and week in 2018, so that you future-proof yourself.

The webinar will be an hour, with a chance for live interaction and Q&A with Graeme.

Date: Wednesday, 10 January
Time: 3pm SA / 1pm UK / 8am New York
If you can’t make it live, register anyway and you’ll get access to a recording afterwards.