New Year’s Resolutions are a big topic around this time every year. Lots of people make New Year’s resolutions, but most struggle to keep them. This post will discuss why I’m transforming my New Year’s resolutions into habits, and some tools to make those habits stick from Atomic Habits by James Clear.

New Year’s Resolution Failure Rates

Honestly, the statistics on New Year’s resolution failure rates are a bit discouraging. Here’s the breakdown of what percentage of people had failed at different points of the year (2016 study):

  • 1 week: 25% of those who had made resolutions failed
  • 1 month:  36% of those who had made resolutions failed
  • 6 months: 54% of those who had made resolutions failed
  • End of year: 91% feel they were not successful

Reasons for Failing New Year’s Resolutions

People gave a variety of reasons for not meeting their New Year’s resolutions. Here are a few of the top reasons:

  • Unrealistic goals
  • Lack of tracking progress
  • Forgot
  • Made too many resolutions
  • Loss of motivation
  • Too busy
  • Change in goals or priorities

So, how do we beat these statistics and meet our New Year’s resolutions? Habits!


Developing habits is the process of automating behavior. You repeat the same steps over and over until you don’t have to think about it anymore. Habits control a large portion of our decisions each day. We are much more likely to meet our goals and New Year’s resolutions by creating intentional habits.

Reframing New Year’s Resolutions into Habits

We can build a system of habits that support our resolutions and goals. Get specific on what little actions you can take each day to move you closer to your goals. Here are a couple examples:

Losing weight (very vague) can be accomplished by exercising more or eating healthier, but those are still not specific enough.

“Exercise More” can be translated into “I will elevate my heart rate for 2 minutes every morning before I get ready for work.” (See 2-minute rule below.)

“Eat Healthier” can be translated into “Every time I eat something, I will log it in my food tracker app.” (We have to understand what our current habits are before we improve them. Awareness is the first step to change.)

The vague resolution of “Save Money” can be translated into “I will set aside $XX (specific amount of money) each pay period toward ____ (specific thing you are saving for).” This has a couple of benefits. 1) It is clear and actionable. You can definitively see whether you set that money aside this pay period or not. 2) It gives you a goal you can get excited about to look forward to and motivate you to stick with it. You can even segment your bank account and name it something fun like “Hawaii vacation fund.” To make it even easier on yourself, you can automate it so that the money goes into that fund without you thinking about it. (Yay for technology!)

Atomic Habits Toolbelt

Atomic Habits by James Clear gives some great actionable tools to help us develop and keep our intentional habits. Here are 5 that can help you:

Environment Design

The basic idea here is that you want to set your space up to help you keep your habit/resolution. This might look like food prep, having your workout area ready to go so you can jump right in, or storing your running shoes near the door so it’s easy to go on a run.

Habit Stacking

Identify a habit you want to develop, and a habit you already have. Attach your new habit on to the one you’re already doing. For example, when you close your work laptop to take lunch, do 10 pushups before you go get food. You attach the pushups to the action you are already taking every day (close the laptop for lunch).

Habit Tracker

This one ties into the “reward” part of the habit loop (cue, craving, response, reward). Checking something off gives you a dopamine (feel good chemical) spike. Everyone loves seeing progress. Seeing your streak of keeping your habit will help you continue.

Implementation Intention

Implementation intentions take the form of “When ___ I will ___.” (Some people use “if” instead of “when,” but I’ve found “when” to be more definitive and effective.) Some examples:

  • When I see a drinking fountain, I will drink some water.
  • When I feel snacky in the afternoon, I will eat a banana.
  • When I get home from work, I will put on my running shoes (and go for a run).

2 Minute Rule

Make the start of your healthy habit routine take less than 2 minutes to start. The idea is to get around procrastination, overwhelm, and mental blocks by breaking the habit down to its simplest form. Once the habit is established, you can grow it. Examples:

“Run 3 miles” becomes “put on my running shoes.”

“Keep a journal” becomes “open my journal and write 1 sentence.”

“Study” becomes “Open the book.”

New Year’s Resolutions and Atomic Habits

New Year’s Resolutions can be hard to keep. If you break them down into small actions you can make every day, they can develop into habits that you no longer have to think about. I hope these tools have been useful for you. I’d love to hear how you are applying them to your New Year’s Resolutions and life! Please let me know in the comments!

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