New Year, New You

The principles of change

An Easy Recipe for a Successful New Year's Resolution

You'll need just 5 ingredients for your habit change recipe.
Despite their bad press, New Year's resolutions are surprisingly effective.  So make one!  You can whip up a successful resolution from just 5 simple ingredients.  Moreover, you can combine these ingredients in your own way to create a delicious and satisfying result.  So grab a recipe card or just print out this blog and fill in the blanks.  Here are your 5 essentials for resolution success:

1.  Figure out your goal.  Your goal is WHAT you desire to change.   What would make your life healthier, more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more purposeful, or more connected to the things that are truly important to you?  Find something that excites you.    You could decide to:

  • Clean out one junk drawer as the first step towards a better-organized home.
  • Donate blood every 2 months. 
  • Practice listening without giving advice or interrupting.
  • Walk in place during TV commercials for one program per night.
  • Lose 10 pounds in a healthy way.  

Write down your goal here:  _________________.  (Does your goal feel too big and overwhelming?  Cut it down into a series of mini-goals.  The first one could be _____.)

2.  Decide on your motivatorWHY do you want to change?  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a personal reason for change (your motivator) that you've freely chosen and that is meaningful for you.  When your willpower falters, think about your motivator and get a fresh burst of energy on your change project.

Write down your motivator--your reason for change--here: _____________________.

3.  Make a resolution to changeDeciding to change may be the key to successful habit change success.  In a study of New Year's resolvers, psychologist John Norcross discovered that people who actively made specific resolutions to change were 10 times more likely to stay on target with their changes 6 months out than were people who wanted to change but didn't make specific resolutions.

Make an inner vow and then write it down:   ______________________.

4.  Make a plan.  HOW will you change?   People who make specific plans are more likely to change successfully than those who don't plan.   After you make your plan, ask yourself, "OK, what will I do differently tomorrow/this week?"  If you can't answer this question, re-do your plan.  Your plan needs to give you specific guidance on getting to your goal.   Ask yourself:  WHO could help me?  HOW could I change my surroundings to bolster my change?

To get to my goal, I will do the following:  ____________________________.

5.  Rebound from relapse with a "growth mindset." What can you learn WHEN you have a setback?  Notice I wrote "WHEN" you stumble, not IF you stumble.  Research shows that slips and even relapses are a part of successful change.  It's the rare person who can change successfully first time around.  Decide how you will encourage yourself WHEN you make a mistake. Self-compassion will help you more than lashing out at yourself with guilt and shame messages.

When I have a setback, I will encourage myself by reminding myself that _______________.  I could also take the following actions to prevent lapses and relapses: _____________________.   When I stumble, I could alter my plan like this:  ________.

OK, so all these steps are more easily written than done. Hey, I promised "simple" and "effective," but I didn't say "quick" or "easy!" Still, now you've got your personal recipe for success on a 4 x 6 card.  Keep it in your purse or pocket.  Practice makes perfect, so REPEAT your success formula over and over. 

Ingredients summary:

1 goal

1 motivator

1 resolution

1 plan

1 growth mindset

Total time:  One lifetime.

Yield: Stronger willpower, personal satisfaction, health, and happiness.

© Meg Selig.  All rights reserved.

I'm the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009). For entertaining and helpful messages about habit change, willpower, and motivation, follow me on facebook or twitter (@megselig1).


Selig, M. Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (2009), NY: Routledge.

"Self-compassion."  Parker-Pope, T. "Well: Go Easy on Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges."

Prochaska, J. et al, Changing for Good (1994), NY: Avon.

"Growth mindset." Dweck, C. Mindset (2006), NY: Ballantine Books.



New Year, New You