The most common New Year’s resolutions are about behavioral changes such as exercising more, stressing less, quitting smoking, and reducing emotional eating. Coming up with a good resolution is often easy. Unfortunately, achieving behavioral change is often a lot more difficult.
In a 2014 survey, 81% of people believed they would stick to their New Year’s resolutions. Only 25% persisted with the behavioral change.
This shows that having confidence in yourself is not always a decisive factor in behavioral change. In this article, I list some tips to sustain behavioral change. I also explain why many people find this difficult.
Why is behavior change difficult?
Many of the behaviors we perform happen on autopilot. Behaviors we do on autopilot are habits.
New behavior has yet to become a habit. How long this takes varies per person and type of behavior. However, it takes an average of 66 days. It can also take longer if you want to learn different behavior and many other things demand your attention at the same time.
You can compare the old behavior with a highway. The highway is very easy. The new behavior is like a small forest path that you build. The more often you enter this forest path, the larger the forest path becomes. Eventually, this forest path will also become a highway.
In the beginning, you will have to consciously perform new behavior. This takes more energy than doing things on autopilot. Behavioral change takes concentration and self-control. You may make a mistake because you do something on autopilot. Then it is important to evaluate why it went wrong. This way you can learn from this next time and prevent it.
Too positive attitude
Being positive is good quality. However, for behavioral change, too positive an attitude can work against you. Some people do not expect any setbacks on their way to their goal.
They don’t take difficult moments into account. As a result, they were not prepared for this. This can cause them to eventually become demotivated by the setbacks.
By looking at behavioral change and past experiences, you can think of which obstacles you will encounter. Make a plan for how you can deal with it. This saves your willpower at the moment.
This increases the chance that you will succeed in dealing with the obstacles in the right way.
Tips to achieve behavior change
Make a card with all the reasons why you want to learn new behavior. Make this on a small card so you can always have it with you. Read this card when you are having a hard time.
Set a concrete goal
By setting a concrete goal, you know what to do. Abstract goals are vague and make it faster to do things that are not in line with your goal.
For example, a goal like ‘I want to eat healthier is very vague. You can make this more abstract by thinking about what you think is part of healthy eating. That could be, for example, serving only once at dinner, eating two pieces of fruit and 250 grams of vegetables per day.
For your motivation, it is good to split your goal into sub-goals. For example, if you want to lose 10 kilos, 2.5 kilos can be the first sub-goal.
By setting small goals you stay motivated because you achieve your sub-goals in between. A goal such as losing 10 kg can take a long time. You can get demotivated if something takes a very long time.
Track your progress
By keeping track of your progress, you make visible which steps you have taken. It ensures that you gain confidence in achieving your goal. You can also share your progress on a platform. This works like a big stick for some people.
Customize your environment
Behavioral change requires a lot of willpower. By adjusting to your environment, you can avoid certain temptations. You can think of countering food temptations.
Another example: For example, if you want to spend less time on your mobile, put your mobile in another room. This way you are much less likely to be tempted to use your mobile phone.
You can also let people in your area know about your goal. This way they can take your process of behavioral change into account.
Behavioral change thanks to sufficient sleep
Insufficient sleep hurts your willpower. Sleep deprivation disrupts the functioning of the brain region responsible for decision making, goal setting, and impulse control. As a result, it hurts achieving behavioral change in various areas. Make sure you sleep between 6 and 8 hours.
Find a coach if necessary
Some people like to have someone to support them in their behavior change. A coach can motivate you and give you tips. You can ask a friend or consult a professional coach. They can be your big stick during the behavior change process.
Willpower leads to behavioral change
It takes willpower to resist temptations that don’t align with your desired behavior change. We make countless decisions every day. All the choices we make require willpower. This exhausts our willpower at the end of the day.
You can train your willpower by doing things you don’t like, such as brushing your teeth with the other hand and making your bed every morning. This also teaches you discipline. This is also necessary for behavioral change.
You can save willpower by making an ‘ If-then plan ‘. You then make a plan for situations where you know you will be tempted. In that case, you have already thought about how you will deal with the temptations in advance.
Behavioral change is an intensive process and takes time. Therefore, do not expect yourself to change your behavior within a short period. Have patience and enjoy the process!