How to design new year resolutions and actually stick to it (with real tips and examples)

What if I told you that every advice that you ever received about sticking to your New Year Resolutions is crap? Yep, that’s right, the whole buzz around ‘passion’, ‘willpower’, ‘choice’ is utter crap! I read hundreds of articles and a few books preaching about all those philosophical ideas and I always ended up tossing away my New Year Resolutions just after a few weeks. But not anymore! Whether you have already listed your resolutions or still pondering, this blog is for you. Get ready to learn a mind blowing way to work on your New Year Resolutions!

picture from istock

While it is indeed so hard to bring a change and stick to new years resolutions there are some 100% practical tips that will make you achieve your goals. I may not be the Queen of New Year Resolutions yet, but all this gyaan (knowledge) is coming right from my own experience- I have been able to stick to a few resolutions that I made in January 2019 till NOW. Yup! that’s right, 2 years of sheer hard work to make this impossible task possible.

Just kidding! It’s not about how hard you try or how motivated you are, but more about how you plan your goals and specially the steps that you need to take in order to accomplish them. Simply deciding “I will work out more this year” is not enough. Moreover, your planning should be as granular as possible (I will tell you how) such that you are able to sustain those habits.

Let’s not repeat the same story this year 😀 (Image source)

I would like to give credit (and a big THANK YOU!) to the book ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear, that I read in 2019 and I keep going back to it every now and then. It contributed a lot to my journey and was one of the best books that I read. It taught me how we should rather work on creating a system rather than achieving a goal. Most of the tips that I have shared are inspired from his book (go ahead and read this book if you are really interested in forming and sticking to the habits you desire). This is my version of applying the lessons from this book to form new year resolutions.

This article is not about WHAT new year resolutions you should make, but HOW to make resolutions, the process of inculcating them in your routine, and actually sticking to them.

How exactly should you design/plan your new year resolutions?

Step 1- Define What and Why?

This is simple. Start with writing down a general idea of what you wish to accomplish, and then ask yourself – “WHY do I want to do this?” Knowing the Why is really important to actually convince your brain.
Example- I want to be healthier. But why? Because I have been noticing things in my body like skin issues, digestion issues, weight gain that I want to reverse that and lead a more active and healthy life.

Step 2- Break it down to the actions (what to do)

Now break it down to what are the exact steps/ actions that will help you accomplish it. Think think!
i) I will be healthier if I do not eat unhealthy junk food
ii) I will be healthier if I eat home cooked healthy food
iii) I will be healthier if I eat less packaged food

Step 3- Evaluate your lifestyle thoroughly (how to do)

Now this is where the crux is. Note down what is hindering you and what would support you in performing the actions in step 2. For this, you really really need to sit and think about your entire lifestyle and the associated habits.
I eat unhealthy because I eat out a lot. And I can hardly choose to eat healthy there. I can eat healthy only if I eat more at home and if I know how to cook and what to cook…etc. etc.

Step 4- How to make it stick (the formula)

This is the game changing step where you figure out how to actually incorporate the things from step 3 in your daily life. Effectively and for a long term.
Now for every item in step 3, take help of the below mantras to help them stick-

~Make good things easy to do; Make it easy to start; Make it enjoyable
~Make bad things difficult to do
~Find alternatives to what you wish to change
~Curate your environment to support your new habits/goals

Here’s how I did it in 2020

Now I will share 2 of my (quite popular) resolutions that I was able to stick to and how exactly I did it step-by-step as explained above (p.s. these were my personal notes that I made during the last 2 years). This will give you a fair idea on how to begin, access, act and really make your resolutions work this year.

Resolution #1 Eating Healthy

Why? Because I have an extremely sedentary lifestyle and I want to be more active. I have been gaining weight as well along with digestive issues. So I want to improve the status of my health.

For this, my action points would be (like mentioned before)-
i) I can be healthier if I do not eat unhealthy junk food
ii) I will be healthier if I cook healthy and eat more at home
iii) I will be healthier if I eat less packaged food

And now how can certain aspects of my lifestyle be changed to support these actions? Remember- you need to thoroughly examine your lifestyle and habits for this one.

  • I often eat packaged food like chips and biscuits at home when I don’t have anything to snack on. So- I will stop purchasing and bringing any of those things to home so that I don’t have access to it. (~Make bad things difficult to do)
  • I will alternatively munch on healthier snacks such as fruits/ roasted channa/ nuts and seeds rather than completely chucking the idea of snacking (~Find alternatives)
My revamped snack box
  • I will have fruits cut in my refrigerator in advance and nuts and seeds in a container on my bed table to have easy access to them. (~Make good things easy to do)
Having fruits and nuts handy
  • To be able to cook more often after getting home from office, I will not lie down/get comfortable on my bed/couch immediately but go to the kitchen and cook something first.
  • To cook more often I always need to have the basic ingredients at home, for which I will have a running list pasted next to my fridge. Every time I run out of something, I will note it down on the list and bring it the next day. (~Curate the environment to make life easier)
  • I will have a list of all the recipes that I can prepare pasted in my kitchen and plan ahead, so that I never get lazy to decide what to actually cook. I can just look down at my recipe list, check which ingredients I have and get started immediately. (~Curate the environment to not get lazy)
  • To be able to sustain this habit and keep cooking, I need to really like or fall in love with the process of cooking. For this I will watch recipe videos, try and experiment new things and make kitchen my platform for creativity. (~Make good things enjoyable)
Tried experimenting with different recipes. Here is my mini banana cake 😛
  • I do not like to cook when I have the main cookware lying dirty in the sink. So I will do the dishes first thing in the morning/ or before sleeping so that I don’t have the excuse to not cook the whole day (~Curate the environment to not find an excuse)
  • In office, I know that I have been eating junk during the evening break, so I will find healthy alternative snacks like sprouts mixture or fruits (~Find alternatives).
  • I will take the longer route to the cafeteria in order to avoid the junk food counters. Not being able to even look at those tempting unhealthy food options will help me a lot to put a full stop on my cravings. I will also not hang out in the cafe where I will have easy access to tasty and unhealthy chocolate brownies and shakes. (~Make bad things difficult)
Out of sight, out of mind (and mouth)
image source

Again, I am not telling you this is exactly how you should begin your ‘health journey’. But just giving you an idea from my lifestyle that how deep and granular you need to go.

Resolution #2 Consume less plastic

Here my action plans would be-
i) No using plastic water bottles
ii) Purchasing less items in plastic packaging
iii) Completely saying no to polythene bags
iv) Identify the hidden use of plastics in other items and avoiding them too

So, what do I have in my routine that loads my house with plastic

  • I end up buying plastic water bottle only when I am outside or travelling. So I will get a small easy to carry refillable water bottle (it is pretty too!). (~Make it enjoyable and easier to carry alternatives)
  • I will try as much as possible to purchase items that come in a non-plastic packaging, like soap bar, shampoo bar, wooden comb, bamboo toothbrush, spreads and eatables in glass jars etc. (~Find alternatives)
  • I have been shopping online a lot the previous year, so I will do less of it now. I will delete the shopping apps that constantly flood me with notifications of sales and discounts. So no app, no notification, no reminders, no shopping. (~ Make bad things difficult to do). Another reason is because I want to get myself out of the trap of fast fashion, so double yay!
  • There will still be many items that do not come in non plastic packaging so I will collect and store the empty packaging in one of my spare cupboard and send it for recycling/ give it to scrap dealers later. You can easily find one near you on google. (~Find alternatives and curate your environment)
  • Another most frequently entering plastic waste was takeaway containers from the food that I ordered. Because I have decided to eat healthier, I will any way order less now and have less of this trash. (~Curate your environment)
  • I will find ways to reuse the plastic containers safely at home with some DIYs (Make it enjoyable)
  • I will always have a cloth bag for shopping handy with me. I have talked about this in my earlier blog as well, that I keep one cloth bag folded in my office bag, and one tied to the handle of my main door so that I never forget to take it. (~Curate your environment and make it easy to do)

Another resolution of mine in 2020 was to step away from fast fashion because I had shopped a lot and I learned about the DISASTEROUS contribution of fashion industry in pollution and climate change. I would talk about this in my upcoming blog.

Forming resolutions to change certain habits or achieve goals should not be thought of as something that has to be done explicitly out of your usual routine but instead should integrated in your lifestyle. That is how you will be able to stick to them even after that year has passed, and eventually those things become a part of your identity! So scrap off any resolutions that you already made and start from the scratch! Try working on your 2021 New Years resolutions this way and you will never find yourself disappointed this December.

Start small, make it easy and keep it consistent!

I hope you found my tips and notes useful, and if you have more such tips, please do share your experiences in the comments. I would love to learn more! Meanwhile, don’t forget to be patient, be kind to yourself, and take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.

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