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How to Keep Your New Year's Resolution

Sticking With Your New Year's Resolution

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Keeping your New Year's resolution is easy once you understand it doesn't have much to do with the resolution itself.  It has more to do with cognitive ergonomics than anything else.  In short it all comes down to understanding habits and habit forming behavior.  And then making sure it fits into your life.

1. Choose Your New Year's Resolution

The first thing you need to do to keep a New Year's resolution is to choose a New Year's resolution.  But you have to choose smartly.  Once you've chosen your resolution you can break down what is necessary to keep it.  Here are some guidelines for choosing a New Year's resolution.

  • Choose a new action - you want to start doing something new, if you are trying to stop something (like smoking) you should incorporate that into a new action 
  • Keep the scale manageable - don't start with a grandiose dream, keep it realistic, if you haven't jogged in a while then a marathon may be unpractical, running a 5k is more like it
  • Ensure the resolution fits within your life system - make sure your resolution changes as few things as possible, if you have to change your entire lifestyle to accomplish it you won't

If you are looking for some suggestions here are some ergonomic New Year's resolutions for a healthier life.

2. Understand Habits

New Year's resolutions can be separated into two categories: one time events and continuous activities.  If your resolution is a one time event, like "see the Empire State Building", then keeping it is simple - get off your but and do it.  If your resolution is a continuous event, like losing ten pounds or taking a walk three times a week, then you need to understand habits.

A habit is a pattern your brain makes to increase the efficiency of actions that are done a lot.  Without getting into brain chemistry we'll just say that habits are powerful and potentially dangerous mind games.  And you can have difficulty keeping a resolution if you don't know how to play those games.

Read More on Habits

3. Identify the Road Blocks

The next step to keep your New Year's resolution is to identify anything that is going to get in the way of accomplishing your goal. Take a good look at what you want to accomplish and make a list of all the things you currently do that would impede it.

These need to be discrete actions. For example:

Incorrect - The reason you can't exercise isn't because you sit around all night.

Correct - The reason you don't exercise on Monday's is because you have to take your daughter to gymnastics, then cook dinner, then watch your favorite TV show, then you are tired and want to go to sleep.

Not only have you now broken things down to a level that you can solve the individual problems but you can also identify the bad habits.

4. Find Practical Solutions

Take a look at the road blocks between you and keeping your New Year's resolution. Is there a simple, practical way to remove them. Can you rearrange a schedule, find some help, or utilize technology to remove those roadblocks.

Look at are example.  There are some possibilities.  Is there a gymnastics class on another night?  Can you join the class and get your workout there?  Can someone else cook dinner?  Can you cook a meal ahead of time and heat it up quickly. Can you get a TiVo and record your show for watching after you've exercised?

Once you've broken your actions down to a discrete level, problems are more easily identified and rectified.  In ergonomics we'd call this a Task Analysis.

5. Clear Away the Bad Habits

Now you can identify and break any bad habit to clear the way for establishing the good ones that will help you accomplish your goal.  In are example you may not have spotted any bad habits.  Maybe you should look closer.  Maybe you're a messy cook and that's why it takes so long to get dinner ready.  Clear away those bad habits and you may find the time to exercise.

Read More on Breaking Bad Habits

6. Form Good Habits

The last step towards keeping your New Year's resolution is forming those good habits that will support reaching your goal. Take your time and install these new habits in your brain correctly and you're well on your way to victory.

Read More on Forming Good Habits

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