Making New Year's Resolutions Stick

by Dr. Jim Loehr, Co-founder, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute

Our intentions are sincere every year and we are certain that the changes we are committing to will make us better human beings. Every January we courageously launch an assault on our weaknesses only to discover our willpower and discipline fail us yet again. Our disappointment and dismay eventually fades, we rally our spirit for the New Year and recommit ourselves to successful self-change, chanting the mantra “This time will be different!”

Based on our nearly 30 years of work in the area of self-initiated change, here are some recommendations that should help make your New Year’s resolutions result in real sustainable change:

1. Examine the why behind your desire to change. Is the change about you or is it about something much bigger than your own self-interest? Linking the change to others you care about can provide for a more enduring motivation to succeed.

2. Write down the thinking you have entertained that has allowed this undesirable behavior to continue in the first place. We call it your Old Story. What is the faulty thinking (excuse making) that permits this undesirable behavior to continue?

3. Create in writing a new story that inspires you to change, creates a solid rationale (purpose) for the change that gets you thinking differently – a completely new mindset.

4. Develop 1 or 2 rituals (habits) that support your New Story, your new Purpose and your commitment to change. Examples of rituals might include preparing your gym bag and setting it in front of the door so you can’t miss it; turning off your cell phone for the first hour when arriving home with your family; having some breakfast every day before leaving your house.

5. Limit your commitment to change to just 1 or 2 new habits every 60 to 90 days. Self-discipline and willpower are easily overwhelmed when we take on too much. Link the new habits to a purpose beyond self-interest whenever possible.

6. Create an accountability chart that records your training efforts every day until the new thinking and behavior become habitual. What’s measured gets done.