By davidspinks

Look, we’re not going to sugar coat it, the odds are against you.

A study conducted by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol in 2007 showed that 88% of people who set New Years resolutions fail.

Now if you’ve read the Feast Blog at all, you know the one thing that we’re obsessed with is building healthy habits. We think about it day in and day out.

Our entire company was built to help people build new habits.

That’s why we thought we’d share some of the most common causes for resolution destruction and tell you how you can avoid them.

7. You don’t get specific enough with your goals

This is a huge mistake that people make. Think about the resolutions that you hear people make. They’re vague and they have no end in sight.

"I’m going to get into shape"

What does “in shape” mean to you?

How will you get into shape? 

When will you be successful?

Instead, it should be something like, “I’m going to build a habit of running. My goal will be accomplished when I can run 5 miles and run every day for 30 days straight. As a result, I want to lose 5 pounds and improve my energy throughout the work day.”

Or maybe your resolution is to “learn how to cook”. 

That’s way too vague. What does learning how to cook mean? Is it cooking dinner every day? Is it cooking breakfast? Is it learning 10 new recipes?

Get specific with your goal. The very first day of the Feast Bootcamp, we teach our students to think through their goals and set specific things they want to accomplish.

6. You start too big

So you want to run every day. Great! Let me guess. You figure you’ll start by running 3 miles every morning?

That’s going to take a whole lot of willpower at the start of every day. That might work a few times while you’re still really focused on sticking with it, but as soon as you stop focusing on it, your old habits will start to take over.

Instead, you should start so small that it would be ridiculous NOT to do the daily task. Dr. BJ Fogg calls this “tiny habits”. The idea is that you do a tiny habit every day, and then build on top of it over time.

So for running, instead of trying to run 3 miles every day starting on day 1, you should start by putting your shoes on. That’s it, just put your running shoes on in the morning.

If you want to start cooking dinner every day, you should start by putting a pan on the stove when you get home from work. Then only after you’ve established that tiny habit should you start to add some oil to the pan and start cooking.

5. You try to change multiple habits

Stick with one resolution. It’s obviously hard enough to just do one so just stick with that.

The good news is that by changing one good habit, you improve your ability to change other habits in the future.

You’ll understand what it will take for you to build a new habit. You also build up your willpower, like a muscle.

4. You don’t plan for consistency

My New Years Resolution for 2014 is to read every day. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to build this new habit. I’ve tried and failed before.

This time I know I’ll fail again if I don’t plan for a consistent time that I can read every day.

My problem is that I leave reading up to my completely inconsistent schedule. I read during times when I’m traveling, sometimes before I go to bed, sometimes during a break. It’s always changing, which means I’m not actually building a habit.

Charles Duhigg writes in the “Power of Habit” about keeping the trigger and the reward the same when building a new habit. So if I want to read, the trigger might be when I pull the covers over me before going to sleep. Or it might be right after I finish eating dinner. 

For cooking, we recommend setting your habit to take place after triggers like closing your door after walking in from work. 

Try to keep the trigger and timing as consistent as possible.

3. You don’t plan for challenges

You will run into challenges. 

So you want to cook every day but maybe you’ll open your fridge and realize the milk went bad. Maybe you’ll feel lazy after work. Maybe you don’t have time in the mornings to make lunch.

You should write these challenges down. Think about everything that might stop you from keeping up the habit and write them down. Then write down some possible solutions to each of those challenges.

This way, when they come up (and they will), you don’t have to come up with a solution on the spot. You’ve already envisioned this situation and thought through a logical solution. 

2. You don’t reward yourself

Often we force ourselves to do these resolutions and it becomes this miserable experience that we dread every day.

But it shouldn’t be all pain and no gain! You need to reward yourself. Not just because it feels good but because it will actually reinforce your habit. Human beings are animals too, and our brain adapts to things that feel good and things that feel bad.

If you cook dinner and then treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, a beer, sing a song, do a dance or even just pat yourself on the back, that sends the message to your brain that this is good and should become a habit.

1. You don’t tell anyone and there’s no accountability

Don’t keep your resolutions to yourself! Stats show that by telling other people about your resolution you improve the chances that you’ll stick with it.

Even better, find other people who can do it with you. That social support (and pressure) will help keep you committed. It will hold your accountable. That’s why we put so much focus on community in the Feast Bootcamp. Our students are there for each other.

You can also do simple things to hold yourself accountable, like the Jerry Seinfeld technique where he would draw an X on the calendar every day that he wrote down a joke. This way, he could see when he’d break the chain.

So there you have it. Now that you know why so many people fail to stick with their new years resolutions you can make sure to approach yours the right way.

What is your resolution? You can start by holding yourself accountable and commenting here!

Photo Credit: Harsh1.0 via Compfight cc

A blog about life improvement, health, habit building and happiness