Dialog Box

Resolutions and habits

It’s common for New Year’s resolutions to be abandoned before February hits.

In fact, some studies show that the failure rate for New Year's resolutions can be as high as 80 percent¹. 

But this isn’t a call to ditch your New Year’s resolution or to avoid making one altogether.

By understanding how to set achievable and realistic goals and utilise habits, you can make your New Year’s resolution a success.

Unrealistic resolutions are tricky to stick to

When setting a New Year’s resolution, the first step is to make sure it is realistic, specific, and also has room for failure.

A realistic goal is one that isn’t too big of a step up from what you’re currently doing.

For example, if you currently exercise one day a week and you want to increase your amount of exercise, a realistic goal might be to:

  • increase your exercise routine to two days a week, or
  • increase your time spent exercising by 15/30 minutes, or
  • increase the intensity of your workout by a set amount.

Setting a specific goal is also important. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution to ‘eat healthy’, a specific goal might be to:

  • eat one extra fruit or veggie per day, or
  • replace your morning snack with a healthier alternative on weekdays, or
  • limit unhealthy foods to set days of the week.

We’re all human. It’s completely normal to get off track from our goals from time to time, especially when life gets busy.

Make sure to give yourself some leeway if you do get off track, and don’t use it as an excuse to abandon your New Year’s resolution.

If you’re struggling to stick to your goal, adapt it! Small steps are often the best way to make ongoing, successful changes to your lifestyle. There’s no shame in adapting your goal if it means it’s going to help you achieve something great.

Utilising habits to achieve success

Habits are repetitive actions or behaviours that we do in our daily lives.

They’re usually something that we do subconsciously (such as actions, thoughts and behaviours), but they can also be things that we’ve integrated into our lifestyle which have become a norm for us.

Common types of subconscious habits are nail biting or foot tapping, and examples of lifestyle habits include smoking, alcohol consumption, and ordering takeaway.

But there are good types of habits too, and we can utilise habits to better our own lives and achieve our goals. 

Studies show that between 40-95% of our behaviours are controlled by habit², and this is one reason why we struggle to make changes in our lives and achieve our goals.

Another reason is because many of our habits are things we enjoy doing, and when we do something we enjoy, dopamine (a reward and motivator chemical) is released into our body. So it’s really hard to stop doing something we enjoy!

This dopamine hit is addictive, and is what makes us crave the things we like doing.

Seeing as our behaviours and actions are so greatly controlled by habit, the most effective way of getting rid of bad habits and achieving new goals is to form new habits or adapt old ones.

The process of forming new habits

Forming new habits takes time and patience, as studies show that it can take on average 66 days for a new habit to be formed, or anywhere up to 250 days³ (just over eight months) – but it really depends on the person and the habit!

Seeing as habits can take a while to form, an essential key to adapting or creating habits is repetition!

But first things first - if you are trying to change a bad habit, the first step is to develop awareness around the habit.

Ask yourself, are there certain times, places, people or other things that trigger your craving for that habit?

Once you are aware of your habit triggers, you can take steps to avoid them, or you can pre-empt the trigger and ensure you’re prepared to have an alternative action planned.

For example, if potato chips are your go-to snack but your goal is to eat one healthy snack a day, you might take steps to adapt your habit, including:

  • making sure that healthy snacks are easy to access in your home (who said the fruit bowl needs to be in the kitchen?)
  • purchasing a healthier snack to replace potato chips, or incorporating a healthy snack alongside a serving of potato chips
  • identifying triggers for your snack time (e.g. if you know you get the three o’clock munchies, make sure a healthy snack is on hand)

Whether you’re trying to adapt a bad habit or form a new one, if you’re struggling to stay motivated, focus on how you can turn your new habit/action into something you enjoy, utilising the dopamine response in your body.

When we turn our actions into habits, we no longer need to rely so heavily on short-term willpower and motivation – habits will stay for the long haul. 

If you enjoy socialising and want to form a consistent exercise routine (e.g. you want to exercise twice a week), organise a set time weekly to walk with a family member, or get a gym membership with a friend.

If you want to read for a specific time each day or week, make sure you read in an environment or room that you love best, and if you’re reading a book that you’re not enjoying, don’t be afraid to change up the book!

To achieve your goals and create new habits, work with your mind and body rather than against it – and remember you already have everything you need to succeed.

Liz Gellel | Marketing Coordinator – Digital Lead


¹Most People Fail to Achieve Their New Year's Resolution. For Success, Choose a Word of the Year Instead 

²Using the Power of Habits to Work Smarter 

²How we form habits, change existing ones 

³How Long Does It Take for a New Behavior to Become Automatic?

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17 January 2022
Category: Blog