One trick to guarantee you stick to your New Year’s Resolution

Here we are on the cusp on a new year. The definitive change of calendar, the writing of a new number at the end of the date (which we all forget to do,) the midnight toasts, all drive the point home for us that we are turning over a new leaf.

For many of us, that makes it the obvious time to think about ways we’d like to turn over a new leaf in our own lives.

But, on average, 92% (Ninety-Two percent!) of people who set resolutions don’t stick with them long term. Have you ever found yourself in this crowd?

I have. Year after year after year my NYR was to…floss! Sound familiar to anybody? I’d start out with the best of intentions. I tried all the tricks…bought expensive floss (as expensive as floss comes,) put it in a prominent location, wrote myself reminders, committed to flossing every night when I finished brushing, rewarded myself for sticking to it. But by February I’d given up. What went wrong?

It wasn’t that I lacked motivation. I didn’t need more information about why I should floss, or how to floss, or all the scary stuff that can happen if I don’t floss. No, more info was not going to do the trick. I was already motivated. The habit just wasn’t sticking.

Take a moment to think about a habit you tried to make or break in 2016. Did you succeed? Let’s look at my flossing case study, in 2015 and 2016.

2015, committed as I was to oral health and successful as I’d been in many other areas (I graduated from Dartmouth for example) I thought I had this one in the bag. I scheduled ten minutes into my evening routine, a whole ten minutes that had previously been filled with just about anything else I might like to do after brushing my teeth, that was now dedicated to flossing. And for the first three weeks of January, I flossed.

STOP. Okay, my mistake was already made. My secret to successfully building a flossing habit in 2016, and the secret that is going to make YOU a success story of 2017 Resolutions, is this: I built the new habit into a pre-existing habit.

Blocking out ten minutes dedicated to flossing was nice in theory, and don’t get me wrong, I do think this tactic can work. But for me, something else worked better. And didn’t require me to “find” an additional ten minutes each day, so if you’re an optimistic scheduler, you can breathe more easily.

Every night before bed I have a habit of putting my feet up for five to ten minutes. It’s a recovery habit I adopted a long time ago, as it encourages blood flow from your muscles back to your heart, decreases swelling in your feet, and generally feels nice to be inverted for a bit. (To try: Lay on your back on the floor or in bed, prop your heels up against the wall, and put a pillow under your lower back to elevate your hips.)

Enter: floss. Is this or is this not the absolutely perfect time to floss your teeth? Here was a habit I’d been in for years, just waiting for me to make more efficient use of it. It’s that simple.

Okay, now to you. Since you’re reading a blog about endurance training, I’m going to guess you have a goal this year related to fitness. Let’s say you want to actually stick to a training log. You have all the info, you know the benefits of tracking your training over time. You have friends who swear by it. But somehow you always seem to forget…

First, think outside the box. Keeping a log, like flossing, doesn’t have to be done at the most obvious time. You don’t need to come straight in from a workout and write a detailed analysis of it any more than I needed to floss immediately after brushing. What you want to identify is a time in which you’re already set up to be doing said activity.

For example, when you first turn on your computer each day, if you’re like me you go straight to email. Checking email first thing in the day clears my head, gives me an idea of what’s coming in the next week. In fact, Gmail is my homepage. Anyone else see the opportunity here?  Regardless of what your internet go-to is, Set your online training log as your homepage.

If you’re interested in finding out more about online training logs, setting fitness goals, or you just need a little accountability to get you started, please check out my Coaching Options. One of the oldest tricks in the book for setting and sticking to a new habit or routine is to get a buddy. Tell someone. Tell your friends what you want to achieve and how you’re going about it. Tell your neighbors they’re welcome to join you for a run. And please, TELL ME. Tell me what your goals are for 2017, fitness goals and otherwise. Leave me a comment, send me a message, and tell me what you want to achieve, why, and how you might go about it.

P.S. If your New Year’s Resolution is something a little more time consuming, nebulous, or complicated, such as, “I want to get in shape,” then you need to take a few more steps to break the goal down into something achievable before applying the rule of pre-existing habits. You’ve heard this before: get specific. But I’ll give you a hint, if your goal is simply to exercise more, schedule it in. Do you have a time each week when you rally yourself for what’s ahead? Look at your weekly calendar? Write a to-do list? This is the pre-made, already-allotted time in which you should be PLANNING your workout 🙂

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