How Anchoring Your New Year’s Resolution to an Existing Habit Will Help You Stick It Out
It’s a new year, which means new year’s resolutions. Of course, still being in the throes of a global pandemic means 2021 resolutions may be different from the usual — depending on where you live, your local gym might not be able to open, while quitting drinking might prove easier if the pubs and bars are closed where you live — but the Earth’s annual trip around the sun still gives us that compulsion to try to change for the better.
I know I make resolutions every year, even though I rarely announce them publicly. The reason I don’t make a big deal out of it is because I’m pessimistic and know that by February those resolutions will have fallen by the wayside.
Chances are you’re probably in the same boat, able to make resolutions but not stick to them. The truth is that’s how it is for most people.
According to research by Strava, the social media app for athletes, most people give up their new year’s resolutions by January 12th. That’s right — most people don’t even make it to a full month of “new year, new me”.
It makes sense when you think about it. The resolutions we make are often things we feel we have to do, but not what we actually want to do. And if self-improvement were easy, we wouldn’t need to make resolutions at all.
So how can we make resolutions easier to stick to?
The answer might be anchoring them to something in our existing routine.
Think about your day-to-day life. Your day will already have an existing routine whether you are conscious of it or not. You will generally wake up, brush your teeth, shower, eat breakfast and go to work at the same sort of times every day. There will, of course, be days where something unexpected breaks up your routine, and your regular habits may differ on a weekend than a weekday.
But still, generally you will have some things you do daily, without fail. Your new habit(s) will slot into that routine somewhere.
If you commute on public transport, maybe your new reading habit could kick in after you get on the train.
If a writing habit is your goal, maybe you will write something after breakfast, before logging in to work from home.
If you’re taking up regular meditation it might work best for you at night, after you have brushed your teeth and got ready for bed.
Anchoring your new habit to something in your existing routine makes it easy to remember. And once you’re really into the habit, you can start doing more. You might find other spaces in your life to read, or write, or meditate, or do whatever new habit or hobby you’ve picked for the new year. But even when life gets hectic you’ll always have your anchor habit and the space that follows it.
Make this year the one where you stick to your resolutions.