How To Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick… No Willpower Needed

This blog was originally published at N.E.W. Motivation Coaching in December 2019. NMC has closed and blogs are now posted here. Blog follows…

In 21 days, half of the people who make a New Year’s resolution will have relapsed and given up on their new goals. This is according to Dr. James Prochaska, who was a driving force behind the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. If you are in any field that works with people on changing behaviors, you know him and this model well.

Many people have stopped making New Year’s resolutions because they realize they won’t stick to them. They prefer to make goals. And, they make goals all year long. If you want to make big changes in your lifestyle, this is the way to go.

Other people continue to make resolutions, and this can also work. We are chock-full of willpower because it is a brand-new year! If this motivates you, then run with it! But… before January 1, this group typically trys to cram in as much of the thing they are going change.

If they want to lose weight, they will eat like crazy until New Year’s Day. Because on January 1, can’t do that anymore.

If they want to exercise more, they will couch-surf until January 1. Because on January 1, no time for this anymore.

If they want to sleep better, they will stay up late until January 1. Because on January 1, an early bedtime is a new rule.

In other words, they backslide away from their goals because it is their “last chance” to do the things they are getting ready to go cold turkey on.

Back up a moment. Does this make sense?

Let’s look at the weight loss example. If you want to lose 10 pounds, and you eat like an 8-year old for half of December, won’t you then have 15-20 pound to lose on January 1? Probably! And, if half of people stop their resolutions before February, isn’t there a 50/50 chance you will actually end up heavier in February than you were in December?

Why do people do this? Seriously, if you do this, post a comment and let me know why!

Let me share something from the Weight Management Specialist program I just completed. “When it comes to weight loss, it does not matter so much what diet a person follows, as long as he or she can stick with it.”

Consider the diet you are planning to start January 1.

If it is low-carb or keto and you love carbs or were brought up with pasta or rice as a part of your culture or comfort foods… can you really never eat carbs again for a lifetime?

If you want to follow go vegan because of all the documentaries (or let’s be real, highly financed super-long advertisements!), and you love a big juicy burger, can you really never eat meat again?

And for exercise, if you want to run a 5k and you really hate running, are you really going to get up and run when it’s time to train?

To be clear, I don’t care which diet you want to follow. I know that diets do not work for the long-term and the main reason is adherence – people cannot stick to them. That is a problem with the DIETS, not the PEOPLE.

When, and if, you find a diet that does not leave you hungry or cut out the foods you like to eat, that’s when you have a fair shot at making it a lifetime plan. Only you know which diet (or let’s call it an eating pattern because strict food rules suck) is the best fit for you.

I want you to be successful with WHATEVER your New Year’s Resolutions, or goals, are this year.

Here are your tips to make your resolutions stick.

1. Start right now.

Do not backslide by over-doing it between now and New Year’s Day.

2. Make your goal REALISTIC for your lifestyle and preferences.

If it is too difficult or too far out of your comfort zone, it’s going to be so much harder to reach the goal.

3. Make it flexible.

It’s okay if you don’t hit your goal for a day, or a few days, as long as you reflect on what happened to take you off-course and make a plan for when it happens again.

What if…

What if you could reach your goals without having to rely on willpower and white-knuckle it through the hard times?

Can you imagine eating meals that are satisfying and filling, finding an easier way to fit in exercise, and knowing that you found a plan that you can do for a lifetime? What a relief, right?

It will be so much easier when you try an approach that doesn’t force you to rely on willpower.

The truth is that WILLPOWER RUNS OUT. Any plan that requires you to use a lot of willpower is not the right plan. 

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