How to achieve your new year’s resolution

Happy 2016!  For many of us, it means a chance to wipe the slate clean, set some resolutions and work hard to achieve them.

I’ve done this for years and up until 3 years ago, my success rate hovered right around 0%.  Then I changed a few things during the resolution setting process, and it has made all the difference in the world for me.

Last year, I’m proud to say I was able to achieve the following:

  1. Start eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day
  2. Start drinking 8 glasses of water everyday
  3. Sleep 7 hours a day
  4. Talk to my mom more frequently
  5. Exercise 5-6x times

These were all things I didn’t do at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, I was doing all of them. One goal I failed at was to write a blog post each month.

Hitting 5/6 is a pretty good rate.  83% is a solid B (one that I wouldn’t tell my tiger mom about), but as far as New Year’s resolutions go that might as well be an A+.

If you are serious about hitting your resolutions this year, honestly evaluate your goals with these 6 questions, and I think you’ll be really happy with the results.

What is a habit that you can form to achieve your resolution? 

  • Set goals that are about the process rather than the result.  Losing 10 lbs doesn’t specify how you are going to get there.  Working out 5-6x a week and eating 2000 calories a day does.  Trust the process and the results will come.  In other words, set habits rather than goals.  Habits don’t have an end, you do them again and again.  Habits make sure you keep running, and eventually you’ll reach you’re destination that you’ve refined.

Is it the end goal, or where you are starting?

  • Write down your end goal, but also write down where you can start now.  Something that you know you can do.  Don’t worry about writing down a fool proof plan from beginning to end.  You’ll naturally move up to the goals you want to hit over time.  It’s hardest to push something heavy at the beginning, once it gets going you’ll have momentum.  Pick a habit you know you can keep to, and then you can add on the harder stuff over time, once the habit is in place. 

Is it low effort to perform?  

  • The next few are all to help with formulating actionable, repeatable habits.  Low effort is really about low mental effort, rather than physical. Often times, it really is mind over matter.  So how can you formulate your habit to be as simple as possible that can still yield you results? How can you make it so automatic that you don’t have to think and plan.  For example, if you want to keep in better touch with friends.  Texting is easier than calling.  Creating a list of friends to call ahead of team makes it even easier.  On days, you are really busy, having a default opener would mean you don’t have to think about the perfect personalized message.  The important thing is the outcome is still going to be a conversation, you kept going, and you continued strengthen the habit you set out to build.

How can it fit in your life?

  • By making your habit low effort to start, it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to take up time.  Everything takes time.  It’s an oversight for setting goals.  People rarely think about what they are giving up to make time for their new habit.  So take a look at your schedule.  Figure out what you are taking a way or rearranging to make your new habit happen.  Do you want to sleep 7 hours when before you’ve been sleeping 6?  Then where is that hour coming from? Time with friends at the bar on Saturday night?  Late night TV watching?  While making time is important, scheduling regular time is not.  See what I mean next.

Is it frequent enough?

  • Habits can only form if they are performed frequently.  That’s why frequency is the most important aspect when thinking about time, and not when you’ll do it.  Put another way, it’s important that you work out 3x a week.  It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, evening, during lunch, or a mix of all three.  Keep that fluid.  If you have a free 30 minutes one day, don’t let that fact that it’s not the morning stop you from doing yourself good.  Whatever, habit you have make sure you set a high enough frequency.  There’s a good reason why the goal failed at is the goal that is least frequent.

How are you keeping track of progress?

  • And this is the most important question of all to answer.  If you answered yes to questions 1-5, but don’t have a good answer for this question, you’ll probably fail.  This is the keystone habit that will make everything else work.  Use an app, use a website, use good ole fashion pen and notebook.  Whatever it is, commit to tracking your progress daily for the whole year.  Each time you make progress on that habit or habits, mark it down.  Tell yourself: “good job.” You’ll get a little endorphin just like you did after a workout.  You just made your mind a little stronger, and is one step closer to forming a new, healthy habit.  

That’s it.  These are the 6 questions that if answered, can give you results on your new year resolution.  You can do all of these things yourself.

Remember, focus on the process, and the results will naturally come.  Have a great 2016!


For some of the science behind the above, I think this blog post sums it up the best.

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