Have your New Year’s resolutions stalled? If so, you’re in good company. According to research by University of Scranton Professor John C Norcross, less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved.
Most New Year’s resolutions target health goals, like losing weight or exercising more. These are lofty ideals and often hard to implement, meaning the overall success rate is low. But there are ways to improve your chances of success. When people focus on the practice or the process, rather than the end-point, they’re more likely to succeed – and to sustain the results for the long term. It’s less about goals and more about creating habits: slowly building one action upon another, until it becomes the new normal.
If exercising more is part of your strategy for aging better, it is helpful to understand how new habits are formed.
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement
Understand that goals are about the results you want to achieve, and daily habits are the systems in place that lead to those results. Success is the product of daily habits as opposed to a once-in-your-life transformation.
One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit and stack a new behaviour on top. For example, as part of your walk, introduce 10 standing push-ups at the end. Over time, increase the number of push-ups.
Recognising habit cues
Our habits are triggered by cues. For example, we brush our teeth just before going to bed. The bigger the cues in our immediate environment, the harder the habit is to ignore. Cues to trigger exercise might be leaving out your walking shoes or laying out your exercise gear the night before.
Join a social group
One of the most effective things you can do to build a habit is to join a group. In a group you may receive approval, respect and praise, rewarding and encouraging activity.