With every new year comes a rush of New Year’s Resolutions. When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, people across the world make resolutions for everything from their health (eat healthier, exercise more, stress less) to their relationships (be more present, practice forgiveness and compassion, stay in touch—and not just on social media) to their career and productivity (stop wasting time online, get started on that book project, find a new job).
But while most resolutions start with the best intentions, follow through can be a real challenge; according to U.S. News and World Report, somewhere around 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February.
If you’re the kind of person who can make and stick to their New Year’s Resolutions, that’s great! By all means, stick with what works for you. But if you struggle with keeping your resolutions and want to try something new this year, here are a few strategies to transform your life in 2020:
Use habit stacking to make better habits stick
A huge percentage of resolutions focus on creating new and better habits, whether that’s hitting the gym before work (instead of hitting the snooze button), eating more veggies, or spending more time screen-free.
But creating new habits is really, really hard. So, if you want to transform your life in 2020 by creating better habits, why not build off the habits you already have?
Habit stacking is a habit-building strategy outlined by productivity expert James Clear in his bestselling book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. The concept of habit stacking is simple; instead of trying to implement a new habit from scratch, you pair your new habit with an existing habit. So, every time you do X (your current habit), you also do Y (the new habit you’re trying to create).
For example, do you want to start running every day? Habit stack it onto something that’s already a cornerstone of your morning routine (Every time I drink my morning cup of coffee, I will lace up my shoes and run one mile). Do you want to start calling your family more (instead of just checking in on social media)? Attach the habit to your evening commute (Every time I get in the car to drive home from work, I will call my brother/sister/mother/father to say hello).
By building on habits that are already ingrained in your brain and behavior, it becomes easier to implement new habits into your routine—habits you can use to transform your life in 2020.
Choose a word for 2020
For many people, setting specific resolutions—like transition to a new career by X date, run a marathon, or meditate for 30 minutes each day—is a great way to hit their goals. But for others, those kinds of structured goals can feel overwhelming. So a great alternative? Choosing a word for the year.
Choosing a one-word theme for the year (a go-to resolution alternative for happiness expert Gretchen Rubin) is a great way to set the tone for the 12 months ahead—and give you a framework for evaluating your actions and making sure the steps you take on a daily basis are taking you in the right direction.
Maybe your word is “growth.” Maybe it’s “change.” Maybe it’s “power” or “peace” or “unwind.” Whatever it is, write it down, put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day (like on your desk), and use it as a daily reminder of what you’re striving for. When you make decisions, ask yourself if it fits with your word.
It seems simple, but this one-word strategy can make for major transformation.
Plan to fail
There’s an old saying that says “failing to plan is planning to fail.” And there’s certainly truth to that. But perhaps a more empowering way to look at failure—and transform your life in the process? Planning to fail is planning to succeed.
No matter how committed you are to transforming your life, you’re going to run into challenges, obstacles, and roadblocks. So why not anticipate those challenges, plan for them, and come up with solutions before they even happen?
So, for example, let’s say you’re spending hours a day glued to your phone and want to dramatically cut down on the time you spend on social media. When you make a big change like that, chances are, you’re going to have a slip-up from time to time (and find yourself scrolling through Instagram). Planning for those slip-ups ahead of time (like “if I find myself scrolling through Instagram, I’ll let myself look for five minutes and then go outside for a walk”) will give you a plan of attack—and stop those slip-ups from derailing your progress.
Don’t forget to make self-compassion a part of your plan! Everyone slips up sometimes. It’s not about beating yourself up when you “fail”—it’s about continuing to move in the right direction despite that failure. As author Ryan Holiday says in his book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage, “think progress, not perfection.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.