How To Create Better Habits That Stick

It's no secret that I love the optimism a new year brings and that I'm a fan of resolutions as they signal a willingness to learn, grow, and use our untapped potential. The act of changing can be difficult though, and the cliché that resolutions are quickly broken is a cliché because it's true.

If some of the things you want to accomplish this year include developing better habits, it can be more effective to make a habit of asking yourself a question related to an overarching goal rather than trying to change everything at once and ultimately getting overwhelmed with a long 'to-change' list.

For example, if one of your goals is to get healthier in 2018, some of the typical resolutions may include:

  • No soda
  • No seconds on bread or dessert
  • Walk 10,000 steps every day
  • Limit sugar
  • and so on

There is nothing wrong with these resolutions in and of themselves. But trying to implement them all at once often leads to failure. 

Consider trying this method instead: Every time you eat, purchase groceries, or stop at a café, ask yourself a variation of the question, "Does this choice help me get healthier?"

The above list then turns into something like this:

  • Does ordering a Diet Coke help me get healthier? Asking yourself this makes it easier to opt for Pellegrino instead.
  • Does a second helping of garlic toast help me get healthier? Taking the time to ask this is usually all it takes for your brain to hit pause and make a better choice.
  • Which parking spot will help me get healthier? Parking at the far end of the lot enables you to get closer to your daily steps goal without having to carve out much more time.
  • Which snack option helps me get healthier? This one can be tricky as food that is marketed as healthy often isn't: the average Yoplait yogurt has the sugar equivalent of two-and-a-half Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Again, taking the time to ask yourself the question allows your brain to get off auto-pilot and make clearer choices.

If you make it your resolution to ask yourself a specific question related to each of your bigger goals, you'll likely find that you successfully replace more bad habits with good ones than you would if you were strictly trying to follow a 'to-change' list.

Originally posted December 2014