How to Make Real Life-Altering New Years Resolutions

And Keep Them Around For Good.

It’s no secret that gyms sell more memberships in the first two weeks of January than any other time of the year. Everyone is itching to get a firm hold of that new years’ resolution — you know, the one where you say you’ll lose 20 pounds, or run a marathon, etc. etc.

The problem is next to no one follows through on these resolutions. Regular gym-goers hate this time of year because they know the majority of the new members are just passing through and taking up necessary square footage for their sweat sesh.

There are a bunch of reasons why abrupt changes to your life’s systems or habits almost never pan out. Before figuring out how to keep these resolutions hanging around for the long haul, we first need to understand why they are so fleeting in the first place.

Old Habits Die Hard

A 2005 study conducted by MIT’s McGovern Institute, led by Ann Graybiel demonstrated the power of habit creation. The study demonstrated that habits are formed on a neural level and not formed by a conscious decision making process. By conducted the study on rats, it was shown that brain activity in the basal ganglia changed drastically when a habit is formed, later changed when the habit was broken, and then reignited once a trigger for the old habit was placed before the subject.

What this study proves is that when a habit is formed, the familiarity of particular circumstances will ignite that habitual behavior seamlessly.

Old habits die hard, because they are surrounded by triggering events that are very hard to get away from. Think about your morning coffee. Maybe you want to cut back and instead of a coffee you supplement with a green tea or cup of ice water. The second you feel sluggish, chances are you’ll say “just this once” and wouldn’t ya know… back to the drive-thru.

How To Keep Your Resolutions Around

Change More Than Just A Habit

Vital to the survival of your resolution is the ability to change more than just the habit you are trying to break. Want to quit smoking? Do more than throw your packs away. Want to run a marathon? Do more than just buy running shoes and a gym membership.

Instead, throw your smokes away, and be disciplined.

What does this mean? When you get that craving for a smooth drag of a cigarette, drop down and do 10 push ups. You will slowly start to replace that craving for a cigarette with a craving for some push ups. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Instead of just buying new running shoes and a gym membership, find a friend who attends the gym regularly and has been doing so for more than a year, and carpool with them. This will give you the discipline to get to the gym and get after it.

You will begin replacing old habits with new ones and replacing old triggers with new ones, as well. Your old habits will almost always be there lying dormant, but the more you keep your collateral habits at bay, the less of a chance that event triggering your old habits will surface, thus all but extinguishing and replacing it.

Make More Than Just A Resolution

Your resolution is a goal. A goal has a focus, and that focus is fleeting unless it is tied to something that really makes you tick. Quite frankly, you will not find the drive to change more than whatever is directly tied to your resolution if you don’t find this synthesis.

Yes, I am talking about your WHY. Sure, there’s lots of literature on finding your WHY out there, but there is not nearly enough about what you do with it after it’s established.

One crucial step is to use it as the your reference point in determining whether you will actually get after your resolutions/goals.

Ask yourself after every resolution you write down “is my WHY achieved or closer to being achieved through this resolution/goal?”

If it doesn’t — pitch it. It won’t last and is not worth wasting your time on. It sounds harsh, but it’s reality. You simply will not prioritize something that does not find itself rooted in what makes you want to live and breathe another day. Put another way, if you don’t tie your resolutions to your WHY, you will not find (or even want to find for that matter) the justification to pursue your resolutions. It’s really that simple.

By linking your resolution to your WHY it makes it very easy for you to recall exactly why you are making a point to ingrain this new habit and resolution into who you are. It becomes seamless to push forward and into the resolution!

Make Sure Your WHY Is At Least Three Layers Deep

Most people when forming their WHY are too superficial. Take this for example:

“I want to be healthy and active.” Next thing you know they’ve spent $400 on a personal trainer and another $50/month on a gym membership…

To be honest this is… Way. Too. Shallow. We need to dive deeper.

Level One: Why do you want to be healthy and active?

Maybe it’s because you want to play with your kids and grandkids (you know, be the cool and energetic mom or dad that wants to keep going even after the kids are toast).

Level Two: Why do you want to play with your kids and grandkids?

Maybe so you can develop a meaningful and unforgettable relationship with them as they grow up, to the point where you will have left them with some of the best values and memories they’ll ever experience. Sounds pretty good to me, honestly.

Level Three: Why do you want to have such a meaningful and unforgettable relationship with them?

Maybe so you can make sure that they are guided through life the way you know sets them up best. Maybe it’s so you can pass on the legacy to them where they want to be healthy and active with their kids.

Going this deep into your WHY will help you put a serious visualization on your resolutions. You will tie a direct result that you are longing for to your resolutions. You want to get fit this year so you can be that mom or dad that can take the kids outside to play with the football, chat about life and really get to know them, so that someday they can look back and say they had an amazing relationship with you and aspire to have the same with their own kids.

This will get you out of bed in the morning. This will get your gears going and will ingrain the new habits, because it truly means something to you.

Now, I’m no life coach — but I am an OCR instructor and trainer. This piece focuses on the overarching idea of New Years Resolutions. Stay tuned for the next one which centers around the resolution of competing in obstacle course races and how to maintain those aspirations, even when you are scared half to death to tow the line.


Chris is an attorney, entrepreneur and elite OCR athlete and trainer, competing constantly on the world stage. His goal setting procedures have helped many people strive toward and achieve what they are after both on the race trails and in life. Follow Chris to make sure you don’t miss any opportunity to see how you can continue to make those forward movements.