Are you tired of making New Year’s resolutions that don’t stick? You’re not the only one.
One study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology discovered most goal-setters make the same resolution 10 times without success! Unfortunately, that’s a recipe for feeling a whole lot of shame and disappointment.
If you’re ready to make this your habit-sticking, big-goal achieving year, then this post is for you.
Creating good habits isn’t an all-or-nothing process. You have to be a bit forgiving along the way of achieving your goals. Plus, there’s a bit of science behind how habits are formed.
Below, we’ve got some strategies and tips you can explore that will help them stick.
Read on to learn about the timeline it takes to make or break a habit (hint: it’s not 21 days) and tips to nail your big goals for 2020.
21 Days to Make or Break A Habit: True or False?
You’ve likely heard the phrase it takes 21 days to create a habit — good or bad.
The idea stems from the book Psycho-Cybernetics, written by a plastic surgeon during the 1950s. Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed it took about 21 days for patients to get used to their body modifications.
During this time, he also noticed that he took about 21 days to make changes himself.
He remarked that it takes “at least 21 days” to form a new habit, but that quote eventually changed to “it takes 21 days” to form a habit and was marketed by self-help gurus.
Hence, the myth was born.
The Reality of Habit Formation
Luckily, now we’ve got some more recent studies to better understand habit formation — the good and the bad.
A study conducted in 2009 by Phillippa Lally tracked 96 people for 12 weeks. Each person chose one thing to make a habit and self-reported on how long it took them for the act to feel habitual.
It’s quite a range, depending on the person. It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit. The average time was 66 days.
Perhaps the best news from the study was this: Just because you fall off the wagon doesn’t mean you can’t still hit your goal. The study showed that missing a day here and there did not derail the habit-forming and individuals have very different timelines for habit formation.
It’s all very personal, which is why initial goal-setting must be intentional for each individual.
Other studies suggest that healthy habits are more easily formed with reminders, a better understanding of the habit’s benefits, and a support system.
Tips to Stay on Track With Your Healthy Resolutions
As 2020 goes on, it’s easy to let your goals fall to the wayside if you're not intentional.
Consistency and determination can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. But there are also some science-backed strategies that can help you build or maintain habits that will push you toward what you want even when you don’t feel like it.
Here’s a look at a few ways to stay on track:
Write your goals down daily - Entrepreneur Marie Forleo did this when she was writing her book Everything is Figureoutable. For 18 months straight, she wrote out “I am a #1 NY Times Bestseller” 15 times daily. Guess what? She’s a New York Times bestselling author now.
Get specific - Have a goal in mind and specific steps to get there. Losing 10 pounds isn’t a habit. But walking 30 minutes a day Monday through Friday after dinner or before work is a habit.
Schedule it - Decide when and where you’ll take action. Write it down. Doing so can increase the chances of success by roughly 300%, according to studies!
Ignore the 21-day myth - It takes longer for most people to form new habits. Erase from your brain that it takes just 21 days. It’s more like 66 days.
Celebrate - Learn how to celebrate even the smallest wins. Doing so creates a positive emotion associated with the new habit and helps it stick even faster, according to Dr. BJ Fogg, a Stanford University behavior scientist.
Skip excuses - You’re probably going to “fall off the wagon” here and there. That’s not going to derail your progress, so don’t use it as an excuse to stop.
Feed your habit-forming steps - Motivation comes from success and determination leads to motivation. Know your “why” to find determination and track your progress to measure your successes to stay motivated.
Set up accountability - Meet up with a friend or schedule a weekly check-in for the best accountability practices. It offers inspiration and motivation to keep at your habits.
Start small and grow - It’s okay to start small. While eating salads five days a week for lunch may be your ultimate goal, try starting off with two days for a few weeks. Build from there.
Use tech to keep you on track - Use timers and healthy apps to remind yourself when to do tasks that fit your habit. Examples like getting up and moving, having a glass of water, encouraging someone, writing in your journal, etc.
Make it personal - There’s not a “one-fits-all” solution for creating your habits to achieve your big goals. Try new things until you find what works for you.
Building Good Habits Takes Time
How long does it take to form a new habit? It really depends.
One study found the person, circumstances, and behavior all have an impact on habit formation.
With all of the enthusiasm of a new year comes the excitement of big resolutions and goals. But it takes more than just wishing for it, which is why so few people hit their goals. Old habits die hard.
Unfortunately, the excitement wanes by February 1.
Don’t let that happen to your employees. Instead, encourage them in their pursuits — especially health and wellness ones! A spring health fair, for example, is a perfect opportunity to excite your employees about sticking with wellness goals.
Help your employees keep their eye on the prize by:
- Setting up accountability partnership opportunities
- Marketing easy-to-start wellness campaigns
- Creating a space for accountability partners to meet
- Bringing in a life coach for a lunch and learn
Throughout the upcoming months, encourage regular goal-setting in the workplace and at home. Help employees remember why they set their goals and the surrounding habits in the first place. They need a reason to push through when it gets tough or life gets busy.
And to increase chances for success, encourage everyone to find an accountability partner. The workplace is full of opportunities for partnerships on exciting projects — both professional and personal.
Want to help your employees build excellent healthy habits in 2020? Learn even more about the science behind habit formation in our free downloadable guide, Building Healthy Habits.