Healthy Habits: How to (really!) keep your resolutions

Healthy Habits: How to (really!) keep your resolutions

By Theresa Albert

This New Year your only resolution will be to change one habit. That’s it. And, if you do it well many, many other habits will follow and you won’t even have to think about it.  Want to know the secret?

All habits are created for the same reason and they can either serve you well or poorly says Charles Duhigg who wrote The Power of Habit. Either way, you have created them because there is some payoff. With negative habits, all “reasons” are excuses to justify that payoff so you can hate me (or Duhigg) if you want or you can choose to find another payoff.  It’s up to you. I will like you either way and remind you again on many occasions.


Choose the tough hotspot hurdle: your keystone habit.  See what your brain just did? It picked the hard one (Exercise? Give up chips?  No snacking after dinner? Eat more vegetables?) and then instantly rationalized why changing that habit won’t work for you. That excuse is your payoff. Figure out what you get out of that bad habit and we are getting somewhere. You are no different than anyone else, sorry.  The reasons are quite common:

  • Can’t get exercise, I have no time (try this…)
  • I’ve tried to give up chips before, it doesn’t last long
  • I get so hungry after dinner and besides, it is my only vice
  • I hate vegetables and they take so much time to prepare (try this…)

Rest assured, others have broken these habits and felt better for it, there is a cascade of positivity that happens when you overcome such hurdles. But there is a system that must be employed to be successful. It is simple.


Once you discover the payoff, you must replace the habit. Simple willpower in shutting it down doesn’t work.  This applies to every habit in your life and once you know how to manage it, you will know how to change just about everything from nail biting to back biting.


Now that you have chosen your replacement habit you need to give yourself a cue and a system to start the new habit. Pick the same time each day and do the new thing routinely. Leave your sneakers in full view, leave your veggies chopped and arranged at the front of the fridge. Do not “re-decide” each day. It isn’t an option. Exercise can start with a 5 minute walk to the mailbox but once you are there, you will find that you want to do one more lap. The trick is to never, ever let yourself off the hook for those 5 minutes. Ever. They will grow on their own.

This habit we have in North America of making resolutions and laughing at ourselves for breaking them is our collective way of accepting the status quo. But the cream of the crop manage to make enough change to stay on top. You can too.

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