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January 3, 2022 — 16:03 PM
While the start of a new year can feel like the perfect opportunity to commence habits that support well-being, the term New Year’s resolutions tends to be met with a groan. Because let’s be real: Many times, resolutions don’t get us all too far. In fact, most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by January 17, now dubbed Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day or National Quitters Day.
Now, the key to achieving your goals is to create tangible resolutions you’ll actually stick to—and according to happiness expert and New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, certain techniques can help you along the process without it feeling like a chore. On the mindbodygreen podcast, she offers her top goal-setting methods, which we’ve conveniently outlined for you below:
While resolutions are inherently future-focused, reflecting on the past can help you identify what works for you and (most importantly) what doesn’t. “The key is this idea of self-knowledge,” says Rubin. “You could ask yourself questions like Well, is there a time when I’ve succeeded in the past?” So let’s say your goal this year is to exercise more consistently: Ask yourself, have you ever exercised consistently? “Maybe the past has a clue,” she notes. “Maybe there’s something that was true in the past that [you] could bring into the future.”
For example, maybe in the past you have enjoyed working out with a friend, but you find waking up to go on a solo run more challenging. That past experience could be a clue that you thrive with accountability—so signing up for more exercise classes or grabbing a workout buddy might help you better reach that exercise goal.
Or maybe in the past you felt more energized after an evening workout than an early morning sweat—that experience can help you identify the time of day that might help the habit stick. In other words: Reflect on your past, and you’ll have a better grasp of how you’ll act in the future. As Rubin notes: “You’re much better thinking, What’s true for me?”
2. Make your resolution a habit.
After you think about what may or may not have worked for you in the past, the key is, of course, figuring out how to make the new goal stick. According to Rubin, it’s helpful to treat this goal as a habit: “The thing about habits is they are so helpful to us,” she says. “They put a behavior on autopilot.” And once those actions start to feel like second nature, it’s easier to make them a permanent part of your routine. “Habits are absolutely crucial,” Rubin explains. “Research suggests that about 40% of what we do every day is governed by habits, so if you have habits that work for you, it’s going to be a lot easier to be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.”
As for how to create a habit that lasts, she shares that it really depends on the person: “There’s no magic, one-size-fits-all solution for how you want to set up a habit, whether you do it in the morning, afternoon, or night. People are going to differ on when they feel most productive, creative, and energetic.” The key is learning what works for you (that’s where the past reflection point comes in handy!) and testing different methods to see what sticks.
Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep.*
Your brain loves rewards—so celebrate your small wins! In fact, Rubin notes that tracking your progress can help kick-start change: “If you monitor a behavior, you tend to start to do a better job with that behavior, even if you’re not consciously trying to change,” she says.
She explains that tracking these behaviors in a journal can be rather reinforcing—she even offers a Don’t Break the Chain habit tracker on her website to help people master their habits. “When people do something every day, it goes onto autopilot that much more easily,” she says. “Many people find this ‘don’t break the chain’ approach to be really helpful because once they get that streak going, they don’t want to break it. They want the satisfaction of keeping it going.” Even the act of monitoring is a helpful reminder that you set this goal for a reason—it helps you remember the why behind your resolutions, which many people tend to forget after the first few days of January.
And if you try a technique that ultimately doesn’t work out? Try to offer yourself compassion; you might just need to try a different approach. Rubin shares, “Sometimes, people get discouraged when something that works really well for someone else doesn’t work for them, and they think, What’s wrong with me? I should just try harder and try it again.” Rather, she suggests saying to yourself: “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’ve learned something about myself. This tool doesn’t work. Now, I’m going to try a different tool.”
As we head into 2022, feel free to try out Rubin’s techniques to create resolutions that work for you. It can be easy to compare yourself to others, but your journey is all your own—try to celebrate small wins and treat yourself with kindness at the end of the day.
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