• Bronwyn Tagg

Not sticking to your new year’s habits? Here’s how to fix it!

Updated: Jan 16

It’s only the second week of January but I’m sure many of you reading this will already be struggling with sticking to the New Year’s resolutions and goals that you told yourself you would achieve last month. And hey, that’s okay! So, we thought we’d put together a step-by-step blog on how to get back on track, or even to start again with your goals. Let’s get you to the high performance you can achieve.

We’ll start with some stats:

British researchers (Lally et al, 2011) found that it takes, on average, 66 days to form a habit. This sounds like a long time but don’t let this get you down! This is an average; some people in the study only took 18 days to cement their new habits, and anyway, if your new habit is truly beneficial to you then it will be worth doing it for the 66 days.

Multiple studies have shown that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. This suggests that goal failure is the norm. Whether you’re a full-time athlete, recreational footballer, weekly gym-goer, sunny-weather cyclist or you dip in and out of yoga and running, let’s nip that failure in the bud right now, and enable you to enhance your performance.

If you are struggling to stick your new resolution, or haven’t even started one yet, you may be wondering “should I even set a new year’s resolution?”. Here at Parfournen, we realise how useful SMART goals are to achieve your dreams, improve your performance and get the most out of yourself. We believe that, with the right goals and resolutions, anyone can perform. So in other words, we believe in ‘Monday’ resolutions, ‘beginning of the month’ resolutions, ‘post setback’ resolutions, as well as New Year’s resolutions. In short, if the habit or goal will help you self-improve, you’re doing the right thing and YES you should set one for yourself.

Resolutions and goals can help increase your happiness and positive emotions, self-discipline, creativity, and productivity; each of which plays a role in helping to avoid fatigue, exhaustion and a rise in our stress hormones. Furthermore, resolutions help reduce your ‘activation effort’, which is basically the amount of cognitive convincing it takes to make yourself do something. More on that later though.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating and sticking to your resolutions, with some exercises to help you along the way. To have the best chance of achieving these goals, it will be valuable to write these exercises down, whether that be in a training journal or on an A4 piece of paper stuck to your fridge, committing pen to paper can help you succeed.

Step 1: Create the habit and give it meaning

We are our biggest critics. Everyone reading this knows of something about themselves that they would like to change, whether that be losing that extra couple of kilograms, making more time for yourself and your yoga, running more frequently, or being fit enough and build up the courage to sign up for the local football team.

Exercise: write down 2 or 3 things you would want to improve on this year. Most importantly, realise why you want to change those things. The more meaning you put to your goals, the more likely they will be successful.

Step 2: Frame your resolution with positivity

It is so important to get the focus right for your resolution. This focus should be positive and encouraging. For example, you should say ‘I want to start running more regularly’ not ‘ I want to stop eating ice-cream’. If your goal is to make more time for your yoga, you should say ‘I want to do more yoga flows and improve my flexibility’ not ‘I need to stop x so that I have more time for yoga’. This way, you are much more likely to change your behaviour; 59% of people taking this approach will change their behaviour and form a habit, whereas only 47% of people will if they take a negative and avoidance approach. 1 in 5 people make their resolutions about weight but don’t fall into that negativity trap here either! Rather than saying ‘I want to lose 2 pounds’ or ‘I want to eat less chocolate’, say ‘I want to make more positive food choices and eat mindfully’ or ‘I want to exercise more regularly’.

Quote: “To lose weight don’t focus on weight” Sandra Aamodt, author of Why Diets Make Us Fat.

Exercise: check your desired improvements you wrote down in the last exercise. Do you need to rephrase them? Add some positivity to these goals.

Step 3: Create an incentive.

If your resolution doesn’t require willpower, you’re doing it right. You need to want to achieve your resolution enough that you don’t have to persuade yourself every day to go for that run or say no the chocolate leftover from Christmas. This links back to activation energy – if your ‘want’ is powerful enough then your resolution shouldn’t be a fight with yourself. Use your past attempts to help you with this! If you felt demotivate by your ‘lose weight goal’ then instead aim to ‘build your strength and endurance’. Having the right incentive can massively change your attitude to goals.

Exercise: why do you want to make this change? What do you want to come from this? Write this down – it will serve as a reminder on those days you’re having to persuade yourself a little more than normal.

Step 4: Make a plan

Here at Parfournen, we support dreaming big, because we know we can be part of your journey to achieving your dreams. However, you need to translate your big dreams into a plan with small enough steps. These smaller milestones and improvements will help to build your confidence and increase your satisfaction, ultimately making you more likely to achieve those big goals. A plan makes it easier to change your attitude and therefore is a step closer to changing your behaviour. When you’ve got your plan, make sure you verbally communicate it to people as well as writing it down. This step is so important at ensuring you are committed to your goals, and therefore likely to be more successful.

Quote: “A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Not sure about how to create a workout plan? Get in touch with our coaches for help with this. Blog posts are coming on this topic so keep your eyes peeled too!

Exercise: Write your plan down in a journal. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Make your goals clear to yourself and others. Make the steps to get there just as clear.

Step 5: Piggyback your desired habit onto something else

Sound complicated? It's not though – let me explain. When your resolution or goal is linked to something else you already habitually do then it is easy to achieve your resolution when you associate the two together. For example, in lockdown 2 I had a goal to read a chapter every day. Every morning I habitually make a cup of tea and drink it at the breakfast table. I piggybacked my reading goal onto my tea-drinking habit and therefore associate the two together and now achieve both. Every morning I get up, make my tea, and sit at the table reading a chapter of a book. It's really as simple as that!

Exercise: think about what activity you already do that could give a piggyback to your resolution. If you want to run a little further each week, why not swap out your walk to the local shop with a run there – you’re going there anyway. Or if you take your kids to their football session on a Saturday morning, why not run whilst you’re there too. When you’ve thought about one, write it down next to your goal. This can be a bit of trial and error but once you’ve found one, it’ll stick.

Step 6: Acknowledge you are human and that cheat days are okay.

Factor this in, in terms of making your goal realistic. You don’t need to go for a run or do a workout every day but maybe aim for 5 out of 7 days of the week to maintain and succeed in regularity. Forget about perfection. When you do slip up, whether that be eating a whole chocolate bar or sleeping in and skipping that pre-work gym routine, give thanks for all the good things you do for yourself. Cheat days prove you’re not a robot. Practice kindness to yourself and that self-love and self-belief will help change that behaviour and cement that habit.

Exercise: write a list of all the things you suspect you might do – your ‘cheats’. Acknowledge you might do these things. Then keep a chart of all the times you did achieve your resolution in your journal. As long as these outweigh the cheats, you’re moving in the right direction

Step 7: Sharing is caring

One of the best ways of ensuring a habit sticks is to find a partner or mentor to go through this journey with you. This can be a friend also wanting to get fitter, so you do Facetime workouts in your separate gardens. It can be your partner or child cycling or running alongside you. Or it can be the whole family pitching in to help cook healthier meals so you’re not

doing it on your own. This is ideal when you both / all can gain something from the habit, even if these benefits are different. Speaking about your resolutions regularly or, even better, having someone there to hold you accountable, can help increase the chances of making your goals into habits and improving your performance.

Exercise: you don't have to write this one down but think who else might get benefit from helping you or joining in on your resolution? Would they help motivate you or hinder your enthusiasm and progress? Is it viable – can you jump on Zoom during this lockdown, or do you live with them?

Step 8: Learn and understand yourself

This step is more of an in-process step but one that should not be ignored. Listen to your body. Listen to how you feel when you go get ready for that workout / that run / cooking your evening meal. Listening to yourself may help you in being able to better understand how given your responses to the expectations you put on yourself, can create the improved performance you strive for. Once you understand yourself, your true motivations and intentions, you can create the situations in which you will thrive and be successful. Comparison is one of the biggest factors that demotivates people and leads to failed resolutions. So, rather than watching someone else’s success, mimicking it and feeling discouraged when it doesn’t work the same for you, go through the exercises above and work out what is best for YOU. It’s important to know that what works for one person may be the very opposite of works for another! Below is a link to a quiz that can help you understand how you respond to expectations, and therefore help frame your goals.

Whether you’d had a go at your goal and given up early, had more ‘cheat days’ than ‘resolution days’ or not even picked a resolution yet. We’ve given you the tools to give you the best chances of succeeding in your dream and improving your performance because at Parfournen we believe that anyone can perform.

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