Making New Year Resolutions Last • Common Purpose

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Making New Year Resolutions Last


Words by Common Purpose Team

Published 20th January 2020

Approximately 8 Minutes Reading Time



Brief Article Overview


  • Contrary to popular belief, New Year resolutions can be an effective and necessary step towards self-betterment.
  • New Year resolutions get a bad reputation because most people don’t follow through with them or give up on them by February. At Common Purpose Club we believe that guidance and support are key in ensuring that new year resolutions last.
  • Motivation for change is a good thing, but it’s transient. This is partially down to something called “Ego Depletion”, whereby self-control and willpower are finite resources. Discipline and consistency help establish new habits.
  • Habits account for 40% of all of our daily decisions and actions, so are extremely important to develop a positive lifestyle change.
  • So here’s the strategy in the nutshell:
    • Plan, Organise, and Schedule – Front-load your efforts and decisions should prevent you from falling into the inevitable traps associated with “winging it”.
    • Adopt a Long-Term, Optimistic Mindset – Progress is not linear and always takes longer than you expect. There will be ups, downs, and plateaus. The only failure is giving up, and remember that every mistake or deviation from the plan is an opportunity to learn and get back on track.
    • Shift your Personal Identity – Have you ever heard of “fake it, until you make it”? Well, there’s some truth to this notion. Your words and thoughts have a powerful effect on your state of mind. For example, telling yourself (or others) “I will” or “I am” instead of “I might” or “I wish”.
    • Find Your Why – Delving deep into your true reasons for action will reinforce your resilience when it gets difficult to stay on track towards your goal.


In many cultures the New Year siginifies a time of betterment for the self and others within the local community. Babylonians would return borrowed objects, Jewish people seek and offer forgiveness and Scots visit neighbours and wish them well (known as “first footing”).


In the modern west, January 1st is often used to get started on health and fitness goals, probably due to the excesses of Christmas and New Years eve celebrations. Although some may roll their eyes at this notion, we actually think it’s a really positive step towards a long term health and wellbeing journey.


Most people will have been contemplating health and fitness goals for a while, some have even explicitly talked about them amongst friends and family, so by the time January rolls around there is a strong impetus to take action.


The Transtheoretical Model of Change

The Transtheoretical Model of Change can be used to explain the stages of development of the new behaviours required to achieve positive lifestyle change. There are five stages of change that build from pre-contemplation to attainment, then maintenance.


In January, many of us move away from stage 2 ‘Contemplation’, to stage 3 ‘Preparation’, and then stage 4 ‘Action’. This is extremely positive, but most don’t appreciate the importance of the transition from stage 4 ‘Action’ to stage 5 ‘Maintenance’ when it comes to seeing permanent results. 


Making it Last


We find that the transition from action to maintenance is where most people fail and relapse to one of the prior stages. What we aim to do in this article is to give you some insight on how you can pre-empt the inevitable barriers and how you can make new healthy behaviours last. 


Motivation is a truly powerful thing and necessary to take initial action. Unfortunately, though, motivation is fleeting. The phenomenon of losing high motivation is known as “Ego Depletion”, in which “self-control or willpower draws upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up”. 


So we won’t be able to rely upon our motivation indefinitely. This is where discipline, commitment to consistency and habits play a crucial role. Discipline is necessary to stay consistent until new behaviours form habits. Once habits are formed, these new behaviours become much easier to maintain and real results are achieved. The fact that habits account for circa 40% of all behaviours it seems that the quote, “we form habits, then they form us” (Rob Gilbert) holds true.

Here are a few ideas that we hope will help maintain your newly established actions and make them last.


Planning, Organising & Scheduling 



The first of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’…be proactive. Taking some time to plan and organise your next steps will significantly improve your efficiency, effectiveness and odds of succeeding. This front-loading effect is truly game-changing, take one hour today to save 4 hours tomorrow.


Think about how you can create a schedule. Think ahead to find (or create) opportunities to exercise, prepare meals and meditate. You mustn’t wait for a good time to do these things. Forge the time, make it sacred and make it recurring. Does life happen? Not to worry, of course, you can reschedule. It’s much better to find room for something that’s already in the diary as opposed to carving out new batches of time. 


How many times have you gone to the gym and spent half the time wondering what exercise to do next? Or walked aimlessly around a supermarket deciding what you want for dinner that night? Imagine having a shopping list created for your weekly meal plan, and a training program to follow? How much more efficient would you be with your time? And how much more likely would it be to adhere to your diet and/or training program?


This is where hiring a personal trainer/coach really comes in handy. It’s their job to write the exercise program and help you execute. They can also give ideas for shopping lists and meal plans depending on your preferences and goals. 


Writing out a plan really helps you to;


  1. Break down big goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
  2. Prioritise your next steps, and create a schedule that takes you towards your end goal.
  3. Massively increases the chance you will put them into action.


Identity Shift



Change your identity. Think “I do/don’t” instead of “I could/couldn’t”. You’re choosing the behaviour. You are the person you set out to be, and your decisions will reflect that. With that being said, consider the social situations you place yourself in. Your behaviours, habits and norms are hugely affected by your social circle. When embarking on this journey, we must consider our shift in identity. The author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, discusses this application in the context of a smoker. It’s better for someone trying to kick the habit to identify as a “non-smoker” rather and an “ex-smoker”. 


Someone trying to become a healthy and more active individual should identify themselves as one, not as someone trying to do so. It helps in social situations. For one, you’re more likely to seek the company of like-minded people. This limits the number of weird looks and funny comments you may get. Like when Karen from next door asks “Is it not a bit extreme to be able to deadlift your own body weight?” You can reply “no Karen, it’s f***ing awesome!”  


Perhaps you subtly open up to those close about your recent change in identity. Going a bit public with a goal is likely to surprise you in terms of how many people will happily and positively support you. Also, the mere act of making your goals explicit and inviting some social pressure will increase the likelihood of following through with them. 


Does someone reducing their alcohol intake go to the pub after work for one beer?  Or do they grab a decaffeinated Americano with a friend and walk across the park on the way home? Opting for the latter is more representative of shifting in identity. This person is removing those unhealthy cues and replacing them with new, healthier ones. We say this again. Your behaviours, habits and norms are hugely affected by your social circle, including friends, family and environment. 


Finding the Silver Lining 



These are all useful tools that make change easier and/or enable long-lasting change. But what happens if we fall off the bandwagon? We fail to adhere or comply? So long as it’s a relatively uncommon encounter, it really doesn’t matter. Rather interesting research tells us about the power of finding the silver lining. Those who can do so, typically bounce back much quicker and can stick to the process and achieve their goals. Wherever there’s a struggle, there’s an opportunity to learn and then move on quickly. Next time you’ll be better prepared. In the words of Henry Ford “failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely”. 


Hindsight and retrospect can be very useful in times where motivation is diminished and circumstances haven’t quite gone our way. Hard work and success can sometimes go unnoticed, particularly by ourselves, as we are often our harshest critics.


It’s always very useful to reflect on how far we’ve come since starting. Don’t just reflect on yesterday’s failure to hit a personal best, or how busy it has been at work and its effects on your eating and drinking, or even that last week you didn’t quite lose the amount of weight or body fat you’d been hoping for. Instead, think back to this time last year where your tough sets are now your warm-up sets. Think about the updated wardrobe you have due to the changes in your physique. Think of the fact that you haven’t had any back-pain flare-ups for months!


Find Your Deeper Why

Your deeper why is your reason, or reasons, for acting or behaving in a particular way. What is your reason? What is yours why? We always believe that this is an important question to ask outright. So much so, we actually ask it three times in our pre-consultation questionnaire!


Motivation is a really powerful thing, but as we’ve discussed it’s also very fleeting. In fact, getting to understand the deeper motivations that drive our clients is something we’re very passionate about. We think it deserves much more than a mention than it usually gets. If you’re interested in how to find yours, click here to read our article on ‘Finding you’re deeper why’.

If you’re interested in starting your health and fitness journey with us…


Disclosure: This article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are currently experiencing physical or mental health issues, please seek professional advice from a fully qualified Nutritionist, GP or Physiotherapist.