You’ve probably made some resolutions for 2018. Maybe it’s time to quit a bad habit, or get off your ass and head back to the gym. Whatever it is, around 30% of all people who make resolutions fail to take any action in one week, and 80% stop keeping up with their promises by February. At the same time, people who do make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain them than those who don’t.

Conclusion: it’s still better to make resolutions than not. But how do you make sure you stay resolved?

Here’s some advice from behavioural experts on the five steps of behavioural change and why your decision to change your habit can shape its success.

The Transtheoretical Model
Behaviour experts and consultants explain that there are five steps in changing your habits. It starts with precontemplation, which is when you’re actually not ready to change, within the next six months. It’s important to consider if you’re still at that stage because trying to start before you’re ready and failing can be demoralising. However, if you’re actively thinking about it (contemplation) that’s when you are mentally ready to begin.

Preparation is the key. Making a list of resolutions is a start, but experts also recommend changing one habit at a time, rather than doing it all at once. If you’re going it all and you fail on one resolution, chances are you’ll stop following up on the rest. Author David DiSalvo also points out that this is a time to consider why you are looking to make a change. Negative emotions as a source for change is ineffective. Give yourself a positive reason as to why you want to implement change.

Take Action
This is the part of the process that is observable. That’s why people tend to focus on this. Making modifications to your lifestyle generally requires around six months. The way to do it is to develop an action plan and take increasing steps to reach your final goal. Don’t aim to go back to the gym and hit it hard every day if you’ve not been for a decade. Start with some light cardio or bodyweight exercise instead and work up to a full workout.

It takes on average 30-60 days to break or change a habit. And it’s necessary to have a process for it. You should set a commitment and plan a good system to keep your resolution. For some, it’s the threat of penalty. For others, it’s a reward. Whether you prefer the carrot or stick depends on your own personality. Either way, that promise serves to reinforce your decision.

Make a Physical Statement
Resolutions, for the most part, are something that stays in our minds. It does help to visualise it in some form, however. One easy way is by physical representations of your resolution. If you plan to quit smoking, for example, printing out ‘No Smoking’ signs can serve to maintain it. Every time you have the urge to light up, these signs will remind you to not do so.

Replace Your Habits
This can be a slippery slope for some, especially those wishing to curb addictive behaviour. But often what we miss about our habits are also the side benefits, such as take a few minutes from work for a ciggie, or stuffing your face with chips on the couch. Instead, exchange them for better options. Take a stroll around the office or the building rather than light up a cigarette. Chow down on sweet potato or celery sticks or do some planks while watching the telly. They are small adjustments, but go a long way towards keeping the side perks while cutting a bad habit out.

Maintain Your New Habits
Even if you’ve kept it up for a year, it’s tough to keep it up. You may slip up, that’s for sure. What’s necessary is to persevere after that rather than just quit. Past research shows that 43% of people who quit smoking return to it after a year. It’s only after 5 years before that drops to 7%. Stay with your resolution. Don’t wipe it off and move on to the next. These are not goals to be checked off. They are commitments to behaviour you want to retain.

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