How to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions

Some people love them, most make them but not many of us manage to stick to them: New Year’s Resolutions. As many as 92% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Read on to find out why and what you can do to stick to your resolutions and  make 2018 your year. 

2018 New Year's Resolutions - get fitter
2018 New Year’s Resolutions – get fitter

The most popular New Year’s Resolutions in the UK are losing weight, getting fitter and eating more healthily, closely followed by a healthier work-life balance. Sounds familiar? Most of us have tried…

At the beginning of the year we are super motivated, we tell ourselves that this time it’s going to be different. We are excited and determined but somehow by the time February comes most of us have already reverted to our old ways. According to some statistics 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February and only 8% of us mange to stick to our resolutions long term. What’s the problem with us? Lack of willpower? Not really.

There are lots of reasons why people don’t succeed  but generally it comes down to one simple thing: We are too ambitious. We make it too hard for ourselves by:

a) setting too many resolutions (start running, reduce carbs AND do yoga 3 times a week)

b) making the task too difficult (exercise 6 days a week when you haven’t been moving for the last 4 years) or

c) setting all-or-nothing goals (I will eat no sugar whatsoever, if I eat a bar of chocolate I am a failure)

Happy Days Ahead image
Happy Days Ahead image

The way most people approach New Years Resolutions is by aiming for the stars, e.g. adapting the new perfect behaviour from day one. It’s great to have big goals and ambitions but all we are doing is setting ourselves up for failure. Research clearly shows us that to build a new habit we need to start small. You need to feel super confident that you can actually achieve your goal. I always ask my clients where they are on a confidence scale of 0-10 (10 being most confident and 0 not confident at all). You need to be about a 9 on that scale to succeed. That’s how easy it needs to be. Start small and increase your task bit by bit. 

Here’s a summary of what you need to do to be successful in 2018 and stick to your New Years Resolutions (and the good news is it has little to do with willpower).

  1. Choose 1 goal. Make this your big dream kind of goal. This needs to be something you really really what in your life rather than something you think you should be doing because it’s the 1st of January or because society is telling you to.
  2. Ask yourself where you are on the confidence scale of 0-10 that you can do this for the next week, the next month, the next year… Most likely you will be nowhere near 10. 
  3. Make the task simpler until you reach a 9 on the confidence scale. 
  4. Accept that this is a short term goal and not where you ideally want to be but you are a lot more likely to get to your big dream goal in the end.
  5. Make an ‘If This Than That Plan’ to manage those situation when it’s going to be tough. (If it rains when I scheduled my run I will do a workout video instead. If my colleagues bring cake into work I will say no thank you and I will always have a healthy snack in my bag)
  6. Review your goal weekly. Are you managing to stick to your new habit? No? Don’t worry, you are not a failure Just make it simpler. Yes? Great keep going and if you feel confident increase your goal a little bit to get you closer to your end goal. But remember to always ask yourself where am I on the confidence scale? 

Let’s look at an example so show you how this approach can work. 

Lisa really wants to lose some weight and get fit in 2018. 

  1. Her big dream is to lose 10kg and exercise three times a week. She wants to cut out  refined carbs and sugar from her diet and eat more veggies.
  2. Lisa thinks she can cut out all sugar and refined carbs for a week or two but she knows it is not sustainable. She gives herself a 2 on the confidence scale 
  3. After several readjustments Lisa sets her realistic goal for the first week to exercising once a week on a Monday morning and reducing sweet treats to three times a week rather than 5. She feels confident she can do this. She gives herself a 9 on the confidence scale.
  4. Lisa feels that her task is a little bit too easy and she thinks she needs to work harder in order to achieve her goals but she decides to accept the Fit & Happy advice and gives it a go.
  5. Lisa makes her ‘If This Than That Plan’. If my friend wants to go for coffee and cake I will suggest a take away coffee and walk in the park instead. If I miss my Monday morning boot camp I will go to the gym in the evening instead. 
  6. After a week Lisa reviews her goal and she is happy to say that she managed to stick to everything in the first week of January. She decides to continue for another week with the same goal. After one more week Lisa decides to reduce her sweet treats to two a week. She manages to stick to it for one week but finds it hard after that. She goes back down to two treats a week but decides to add a second exercise session per week…… this goes on week by week with Lisa constantly adjusting and readjusting her goals and after three months she has lost 6kg and is exercising 3 times a week. She finds exercising three times a week easy now and only has a sweet treat once a week… she still hasn’t managed to increase her vegetable portions but she still has 9 months to go and feels confident that she will achieve this one step at a time. 

Notepad with New Year's Resolutions heading and No1 Quit.  Fit & Happy show you how to succeed.
Notepad with New Year’s Resolutions heading and No1 Quit. Fit & Happy show you how to succeed.

Small, incremental lifestyle changes are the way to go

The key to success is to make it easy. Keep making your tasks easier and easier until you can do them without feeling stressed out, deprived or unhappy. Review this regularly, keep adjusting your goals up or down and stick with it. Consistency is hugely important when building new habits. It’s much better to do little bits consistently than big things once a week… your brain learns by repetition. 
Go on, give it a go and give me a shout if you get stuck! 

More tips and tricks to keep you on track: 

  • Be accountable: Tell your family and friends what you are trying to do
  • Keep a journal or a tick list. You can create a chain of ticks and try and keep that chain unbroken. 
  • Sometimes you will revert to your old habits. This is not a failure but entirely normal. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Just move on, it’s only a temporary setback and not a reason to give up.
  • Reward yourself when you achieve milestone goals (maybe not with a big slice of cake though…)
  • Change one behaviour at a time
  • Have a backup plan. Sometimes life gets in the way and that’s okay. No reason to give up, just adjust and keep going.
  • ​If you need some more inspiration check out my article on healthy habits and get a copy of the healthy habits menu.
  • ​Want to exercise more?  Why not join the Fit & Happy Boot Camp?
  • ​Still want o try the latest fad diets: Read Why diets don’t work and what to do instead
  • Need some more help? Email julia@fitandhappy.co.uk

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