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Your New Year’s resolutions will fail. Do this instead.

Every year, January compels us to decide we’re going to finally become the (insert virtue here-->strong and flexible, morning meditator, daily drinker of 64-ounces of water …) person we aspire to be.

But how many resolutions have you actually kept? Be honest with yourself. None? You’re in good company.

Studies indicate that 30-50% of people don’t even make it through January. And 80-90% don’t make it through one year!

Hmmmmm. So it seems like most of us are setting ourselves up for failure with traditional resolutions. 

Why do resolutions fail?

Resolutions are habit changes, and most of us choose resolutions that require a lot of willpower.

Your willpower sucks

In his fantastic book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that willpower is essentially the ability to delay gratification. It is impacted by two factors: your environment and how rested you are. If we just assume we have the willpower to make a habit change without considering these two factors, we’re likely to fail.

How’s your willpower? Are you the friend who says no to nachos, that second drink, and dessert when you go out with your buds? I’m not either.

What does this mean for resolutions?

Let’s take a relatively simple one like meditating first thing in the morning. 

If you have a schedule to keep, this means you either have to:

  1. Get up earlier (which also means going to bed earlier if you want to get the same amount of sleep, ie: not watching that second episode of The Mandalorian)  


  1. Stop doing something else in order to create the time. What’s that going to be? Not checking social media while lying in bed? Stop reading the news, shaving your face, helping your kid, or walking the dog? 

The problem is that  meditating for even 15 minutes in the morning means having to make at least two behavior changes. Easy to see why most of us fail.

So what’s the solution?

In this excellent article, Clear suggests the following 5 tweaks to habit changing:

  1. Pick one thing and do it well. Most of us try to change too many things at once. Start by choosing 1 habit change that feels doable.
  2. Make it easy. Deciding to meditate 15 minutes each morning when you’ve never done it is too much for most. Start with 1 minute and build from there.
  3. Focus on the behavior, not the outcome. Seeking a result rather than a ritual sets us up for failure when we don’t immediately see or feel changes.
  4. Build an environment that supports good habits. What’s the thing that prevents you from fitting meditation in? Make that thing less available if it’s a distraction, like your phone. Or, create the time by setting your alarm a few minutes early.
  5. Get 1% better every day. Small changes add up.

“If you’re serious about building a new habit, then start with something small. Start with something you can stick with for good. Then, once you’ve repeated it enough times, you can worry about increasing the intensity. Build the behavior first. Worry about the results later.”

Me, I’m working on cutting processed crap from my diet. That means not having store-bought salty, crunchy, or sweet snacks in my house (environment) and getting enough sleep (rest), water, and good nutrition to feel satisfied. I hope to make it past January this year…

How about you? Did you make a resolution this year? Share in the comments.

Happy 2020!




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