According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately
50% of the population makes resolutions each new year.
And other research indicates that 98% of us fail at keeping new
That's right a WHOPPING 98%.
So what's going on and how can you make your new year's resolutions stick?
It's simple, once you get that…
For the vast majority of people, when it comes to making lasting
change, failure is the rule.
Not the exception.
And when most people try to make a change and fail they are
often missing one of 5 enabling factors I call MSKSS.
5 factors that help make your resolutions stick.
MSKSS: A Fast Track For Lasting Change
Change can be easy and fast.
Put the following 5 factors to work and you'll dramatically
increase your changes of making your resolutions stick.
1. Motivation - The burning desire to see the change happen.
Your motive to change plays a key role in wiring up any behaviour.
If your motivation is limp or your attitude is already
"defeatist" before you begin, then your nervous system isn't
going to be pushed to create a change.
In essence you want to have strong pleasure for doing or strong
pain linked to not doing the desired change in response.
As you look at your list of resolutions for the year ahead,
choose your top one and assess how strong your motive is to
effect the change?
Is it high?
Or are you "shouding" all over yourself?
If your motivation is low, that's the first thing you'll want to change.
You can find out more about how to do that here.
Another key reason so many people fail to change is because they
haven't defined the change in specific behavioural terms.
Define the end state in sensory descriptive terms so your brain
has something to lock onto.
For example choose "lose ten pounds of fat by April 1st" rather
than "lose weight".
Assess your resolution statements and goals to determine if they are
truly specific enough or are they abstract and lack something for your
brain to grip onto.
When it comes to changing long standing habits most people are blind
to how their behaviour is triggered. In effect what keeps them stuck
is invisibile to them.
Whenever I've investigated why a habit for myself or others
failed to stick, it's often because a key gap in knowledge was
Knowledge takes many forms but when it comes to changing habits
- Process knowledge
- Behavioural knowledge
Whenever you are looking to make a new behaviour stick,
first ask yourself:
- HOW do I generate and maintain my current behaviour?
- WHEN, WHERE and under what CONTEXTS do I tend to perform the current behaviour?
- WHAT need is being fulfilled from the current behaviour?
- WHAT do I need to do differently to perform the new behaviour I've chosen?
Take ten minutes to do think these questions through and you
will have a much better understanding of how the current
behaviour is generated and maintained.
That knowledge is power, when you use it.
Write out what contexts you most often get triggered to do the old
behaviour and how the trigger gets set off.
You can then use this information to:
- Design an effective intervention
- Setup the new behaviour
- Leverage existing neural habits you are already conditioned to doing
Do this and you greatly increase your chances of making the desired change
The scope of some new year resolutions are often broader
than a single behaviour change, something that people often miss.
Most new years resolutions encompass several changes in behaviour.
Yet if you overlook this you significantly decrease your chances of
making the change.
For example the action plan to "lose ten pounds of fat by April
1st" will likely require multiple changes in behaviour around
decision making, food choices, exercise levels, use of free time etc.
In order to be successful, the person seeking to make the change
last (and for it to be effective) will want to define what skills are
needed to do produce the desired outcome.
Many people fail to do this and so trip up when they try to "make
the change" because they don't have the requisite strategies on
When you look at changing a behaviour as a skills exercise, you
can begin to define what "skills" you need to create the desired
- What new skills do I need to develop?
- How can I learn to do this?
As I've mentioned previously when it comes to changing a habit
the habituated triggers you can't see are often the critical factors
that are controlling you.
Triggers can be internal (representations), external
(e.g. dirty clothes on the ground) and are contextual.
For example, if you want to "read 5 books each month" but currently
you have become habituated to watching TV for 7-10 hours
every day, you'll likely continue on that path…
unless you setup new conditions and structures that make
the old way of doing things difficult (painful) or non existent.
For example by restricting or removing your access to the TV.
Taking the battery out of your remote control so you must get up
to change the channel, turn up/down the volume etc.
Situations where your nervous system experiences pain or pleasure are
watched closely by your brain. Your body wires up a change accordingly.
Human beings are impacted and influenced by our environment
(including physical aspects along with social peers).
If you want to be more successful set-up conditions and structures that
promote the desired change in behaviour.
By assessing what structures exist that support the existing
habit and changing these and by setting up new structures that
support the new habits you want to entrain to; you can greatly
increase your chances of being successful.
- What conditions and structures can you setup today for your most important resolutions to increase your chances of success?
Use the MSKSS process to help interrupt existing patterns and
wire up new habits.
When establishing a new habit make sure you link pleasure to
doing it and pain to not doing it.
Remember to celebrate each time you find yourself doing the new behaviour or
following through on your resolutions.