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The secret to sticking to New Year resolutions

by Assistant Professor Gina Cleo

As we approach the dawn of another year, it's customary to reflect on our journeys over the past 12 months and contemplate the road ahead.

As such, New Year's resolutions often become the focus of our aspirations for the future, but the question looms large: Do New Year's resolutions really work?

The allure of New Year's resolutions often leads us to envision a complete life transformation – the desire to shed weight, increase fitness and save more.

We vow to become better parents, partners, and friends, explore new destinations, start new hobbies, meditate, and start a gratitude journal, among other noble pursuits.

Yet, research reveals a crucial insight into the nature of resolutions: the grander the goal, the less likely we are to commit to it.

The sheer magnitude of our ambitions can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

We also know that juggling too many resolutions not only makes achieving them more challenging but also significantly compromises our ability to maintain them, especially when compared to setting more modest targets.

Up to 92% of New Year's resolutions fizzle out before the end of February.

So, to increase your chances of being among the 8% who successfully achieve their New Year's goals, consider these three strategies:

1.    Align your goals with your current routine

Set goals that align with our current lifestyle and daily routines.

Pick goals that you can piggyback onto what you already do in your day.

For example, if you want to eat more fruit, plan to eat a piece of fruit with your daily breakfast.

Or if you want to listen to more audiobooks, make your daily commute the time that you do that rather than listening to the radio.

2.    Focus on rituals, not results

Shift your focus from the end result to the actions that will lead you toward a healthier, fitter, and happier you.

Instead of declaring, "I want to run 5 kilometres," opt for "I will commit to running three days a week consistently."

By consistently running three days a week, you will eventually conquer that 5-kilometre milestone.

3.     The Power of Three

Research indicates that our brains can effectively manage up to three changes at once.

Attempting more than three simultaneous changes often leads to feelings of overwhelm, paving the way for procrastination and eventual abandonment of your resolutions.

In the coming year, challenge yourself to embrace just three manageable habit changes that you can genuinely enjoy and sustain.

You'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish with this approach.

Finally, the magic of January lies not in instant motivation, but in the commitment and strategies we employ throughout the year.

Assistant Professor Gina Cleo is an expert in Habit Change.

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