Why you need to build habits rather than resolutions to create success

Want to make next year the year you hit your big goals? Find out why you need to avoid setting New Year resolutions, and a six-step process to create habits that stick, instead.

New Year’s resolutions suck. In fact, our advice is not to waste your time with them. By January 19 95% of people will have abandoned them anyway. And let’s be he honest, you’re probably unlikely to be in the 5%!

However, if you do want to change your life, the new zeitgeist is to think small to achieve big. It’s time to start thinking about building new habits through small, everyday actions.  

Five reasons why New Year resolutions fail

But first, here are five big reasons why New Year resolutions fail:

  1. They are too vague and easily forgotten.
  2. We don’t break them down into the small, everyday actions we need to achieve them. Therefore, we are easily daunted and distracted.
  3. We don’t measure or track them.
  4. We are too ambitious when we make them. Then, when it comes to honouring them, we become disheartened and give up. 
  5. We don’t stay accountable. So, when we start to lose focus and become distracted there isn’t anyone there to hold our feet to the fire. 

Six steps to smashing goals by creating new habits

So rather than think about setting yourself ambitious (but unlikely to succeed) New Year resolutions, think habits instead. Here is a six step guide to smashing your goals by embeddding new life changing habits.

1) Be crystal clear on your goal. 

One goal is best. Make the goal very specific – like a SMART objective. Make sure your colleagues, friends and family know what it is. Peer pressure helps you to stick to the task. Make sure the goal is written in places where you will be consistently reminded of it – the fridge door, the bathroom mirror, your digital devices. 

Watch this quick video on successful goal setting in business.

2) Break the big goal down into everyday actions

The most important thing is to create simple, small steps – act small and often. Big goals are daunting. If we focus on the small steps, we make them achievable and relevant. We also begin to avoid the biggest enemy of progress – distraction. 

If we can identify these everyday actions and embed them as new habits, we start to create something powerful. It is the compound effect of consistency which adds up to a big change.

3) Track and measure your progress

As the famous old saying goes, if we don’t measure it, we can’t manage it. We need clear visibility of how we are getting on. Imagine playing tennis, or golf or football and not keeping the score. Yet that’s what most people do with their New Year’s resolutions.

With new habits you need to keep the score. If your aim is weight loss arrange a regular weigh with others. If it’s a fitness goal, test yourself each week to see how you’re advancing. Use a fitness app to keep the score.

4) Aim for progress not perfection

You just need to get momentum and gradually move the dial. Too often the reason we fail is that we expect too much too soon and become disheartened.

5) Be accountable for delivering

To embed new habits, we need to take personal responsibility and accountability. The biggest reason that New Year’s resolutions fail is that we don’t make ourselves accountable to anyone for delivering them. 

Team up with others who want to achieve the same thing. This helps encourage you and keep you committed. It means there is someone to get you out running on a wet night and someone to coach you when you get distracted. Trying to achieve alone is a recipe for failure.

6) Celebrate your wins

Celebration makes everyone happy. It releases great warm chemicals in our brains which not only encourage us to want to do more but also are at the heart of motivation, satisfaction, and engagement. The more you celebrate, the more likely you are to keep on winning. There is one other thing to keep in mind: be kind and recognise the greatness in you.

The best New Years resolutions are… none!

So, the best New Year’s resolution you can make is to not make any. Instead, focus on how to embed new habits by breaking your goals down into everyday actions. 

If you run your own business or run someone else’s business, you may be interested to know that the six- step process we outlined above is the same process we use to maximise performance and change the fortunes of the companies we work with.  

Jeremy Campbell is the CEO of performance improvement and technology business Black Isle Group. He is an executive coach and creator of the “everyday actions” methodology. He is passionate about helping individuals and teams maximise their performance. 

Photo by Samantha Gades