What are your goals for 2024? Whether you want to improve your health, be smarter with your money, or learn a new skill, it can be hard to know where to start.
Recent research discovered the average British adult only sticks to a new habit for seven weeks before giving up. So what can you do to achieve the life of your dreams?
If you want to turn your aspirations into reality, read these seven tricks to turn your new year resolutions into habits.
1. Set specific and realistic goals
The first step to keeping your new year resolutions is to set a specific and realistic goal.
For example, “going to the gym” is too vague. Adding some specificity – such as “going to the gym every morning before work” – gives you a more concrete plan of how you can stick to your resolution.
You also need to ensure your goal is realistic. Creating new habits can be a long and arduous process that takes several weeks before they become natural parts of your routine, so make sure they’re something you’re motivated to do regularly.
If you’ve never stepped foot inside a gym before, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stick to a goal of spending hours there every day. Setting an unrealistic goal can lead to you avoiding your new habit as you might be subconsciously intimidated by such a large change to your routine.
2. Plan ahead
Once you’ve decided on your specific and realistic end goal, you need to create a plan of how you will reach it. This will give you clear, actionable steps toward your dream, which will help you incorporate new habits into your life.
For example, if your goal is to save more for retirement you need to calculate the total amount you will need when you give up work. You also need to determine how much money you should be adding to your pension or other savings every month, so you can put aside regular amounts rather than facing the difficult task of finding a lump sum in the future.
3. Hold yourself accountable
Now you know how you’re going to turn your resolution into a habit, you need to make sure you’re following your carefully crafted plan.
Starting a new habit is hard. But if you push past the initial discomfort and remind yourself of your long-term goals and the reason you chose to make this change in the first place, you can do amazing things.
Acknowledging when you’ve failed and trying to do better next time is a crucial part of starting a new habit. Although we all make mistakes, it’s important to know when you’re making excuses and continue with your plan.
4. Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself is also a brilliant way to hold yourself accountable. Positively reinforcing your efforts tricks your brain into enjoying the habit and will help you to keep up the positive mindset.
There are plenty of small pleasures you can reward yourself with, such as:
- Sleeping in
- A bubble bath
- A meal at your favourite restaurant
- An evening to yourself
- Spending time with loved ones
- Buying something you’ve had your eye on.
Just make sure your reward isn’t undoing your hard work; eating chocolate to reward yourself for being healthy may hinder your improvement.
5. Measure your progress
There are plenty of ways to measure your progress depending on what your goal is. Whether you keep track of your hard work in a journal or an app, it’s important to document your journey.
Habits take a long time to form. Seeing the progress you’ve made can keep you motivated when you otherwise may not have noticed the positive changes you’re making.
Celebrate every milestone you hit, and if you’re not making the progress you wanted to see, consider why. Perhaps your goal was unrealistic or life is getting in your way. Adjust your plan accordingly, and continue on your journey.
6. Start habit stacking
Habit stacking is a technique created by James Clear in his bestselling self-help book, Atomic Habits. The basic concept is that instead of starting a new habit from scratch, you should stack it on top of your existing routine.
There are hundreds of habits you take for granted every day, such as making your bed or cooking dinner. Instead of trying to start your new habit at an arbitrary time, choose one of these habits as a trigger for you to practice your new skill.
A few examples include:
- Moving money to a savings account when you pay your bills
- Changing into gym clothes as soon as you wake up
- Practising a hobby straight after coming home from work.
Your brain strengthens the existing neuron pathways from the original skill, which means you’re building on foundations you’ve already created rather than trying to make a new pathway. This tricks your brain into sticking to the habit for longer as the change feels smoother and less intimidating.
7. Be kind to yourself
Although you want to be the best version of yourself, there might be some days when you can’t follow through your plans. Taking care of your physical and mental health is always important.
Recognising when you’re in a situation that’s out of your control and allowing yourself some grace will help you to stick to your habits in the long run. If you force yourself to do them while burnt out or stressed, you will start to associate your goals with harm rather than the fun and positivity they should be bringing to your life.