Resilience Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

New Year

The joke goes that New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies; fun to make but oh so difficult to maintain! With almost 80% of us failing to maintain our New Year’s resolutions* it seems this isn’t simply a joke.

When we try to develop new habits we often find things just get in the way – usually ourselves!! It takes effort to make changes to our lives and if these aren’t easy changes we can easily get caught in the cycle of procrastination.

So, how do we increase our chances of making new habits stick?

1. Break it down

As I was entering my 40th birthday year, I decided to take on a new challenge and run my first 10k event. Although I was already doing the odd run I wasn’t anywhere near fit enough to run a 10k.

Rather than looking at the 10k as the big goal, I focused on lots of mini goals like running without taking a break, increasing my pace and running just a little bit further each time. That helped me to stay motivated until race date and beyond. I’m still running 12 months on!

So, for example, if you are starting from a position of no exercise, rather than resolving to “exercise more”, you could think about taking the stairs rather than the lift, walking to work, or doing sit ups before you step into the shower. These are all things you can do before making that first venture into the gym.

2. Change your environment

To find the path of least resistance we often need to look to our environment. In a study conducted in the U.S. a company wanted to encourage chronically obese workers to exercise at work. The workers found many reasons why they couldn’t do this; they had no time, they’d be sweaty after their workouts or the nearest gym was just too far away.

The company decided to install some treadmills and asked its workers to just stand on the treadmill for five minutes each day. That didn’t sound so bad! Interestingly, when people had done that for a week they got bored and turned the treadmill on so that instead of standing they were walking. From walking, they built up to running.

Think about how you can change your environment to ignite your motivation. For example, if you want to lose weight you could think about keeping a bowl of healthy snacks on your desk when the need for sugar hits mid-afternoon.

3. Track it

On average it takes around 21 days to create a new habit with January 17th being the most common date for people to give up on their New Year’s resolutions. To get beyond this, track your progress towards your goal every day and keep it visible!

You can build in rewards at key points and be aware of what factors tempt you away from your positive habit. For instance, if you would like to stop smoking be aware of what factors make you want to reach for a cigarette and minimise or indeed eliminate these where you can. Some apps will even track how much money you’ve saved by giving up smoking so you can use the money you’ve saved to treat yourself. There are plenty more apps out there that can help you track your progress really easily.

So, whatever you choose to change in 2016, there really is no excuse for your newfound habit to be binned before the end of January!


Break it down, change the scene, track it well to make routine.

Good luck!

* Source: Mental Health Foundation

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