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Make Your Resolutions Stick by Mastering How to Form New Habits

The reasons we typically fail to keep up with our resolutions seem to fall into two broad buckets. Much of the focus is placed on the first one: not framing the resolution in an actionable, measurable way. A resolution to “lose weight” is much more concrete if you couch it as “lose 10lbs in 30 days.” 

However, we believe that the more important reason to address is the second obstacle: using an effective habit-building strategy. We previously shared the framework behind Tiny Habits. Another very practical approach is James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Clear shares the same simple concept behind Tiny Habits: start small. He describes habits as “the compound interest of self-improvement.” Taking small steps in a consistent way over time can get you very far. 

The twist of his framework comes from distinguishing between an outcome-based approach to behavior change and an identity-based one. The first focuses on the “what” you want to achieve. The second is anchored on “who” you want to be and what you believe to be true about yourself. As you might suspect, the latter approach leads to more lasting changes. 

An identity-based focus to habit building greatly impacts how you frame your goals. Through this lens, your objective might change from “run a marathon”  to “be a runner.”  Or you might go from “losing 20 pounds” to seeing yourself as a “fit person who manages their weight.” 

Your behaviors are a reflection of your identity, “what you do is an indication of the type of person you believe you are.” Combining these two ideas, “who you want to be” and “taking small steps” creates a self-reinforcing loop. Once you behave in a manner consistent with the identity you want to forge, it starts to grow stronger. 

The other pillars of his approach are very similar to the one’s in Tiny Habits: have obvious cues in your day that trigger the habit, associate the habit with a positive outcome, and reward yourself for performing the action.

Go deeper: Listen to James Clear walk through his framework - How To Get 1% Better A Day Through Habit Hacking or subscribe to his excellent newsletter.

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