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How To Stick to Your New Year's Resolution: The Science & Spirit Of Change

How To Stick to Your New Year's Resolution: The Science & Spirit Of Change

Another year, another broken promise to yourself. We've all been there. You set a New Year's resolution with a burst of optimism, confident that this time, things will be different. But as the first week passed, you found yourself already faltering.

You’re not alone. Each year, just 7-19% of people actually see their resolutions through to fruition. Despite the best intentions, 23% of resolutions dissolve within the first week. And up to 80% of people give up by the end of January. These aren't merely surprising statistics. They’re unmet aspirations, deferred dreams, and foiled plans. 

Consider what it's cost you each time a resolution has fallen by the wayside. Maybe it's the fitness goals that never became habit, the language you wanted to learn but never started, or the books you bought but never read. Every unkept resolution is a reminder of what could have been, posing the question, “What if you had stuck with it?”

Why do so many start with determination yet find themselves among the majority who lose sight of their goals as the year progresses? What distinguishes the successful 7-19% who maintain their resolutions? The secret lies in the science and spirit of change.

In this blog, we'll look at some of the empowering techniques that make resolutions last. We’ll explore the scientific mechanisms behind habit formation and the psychological drivers of behavior change. And we'll examine the spiritual underpinnings of resilience and genuine transformation. Your resolutions, whether they are for health, acquiring new skills, or personal enrichment, are achievable — they're not just whimsical desires.

Read on to learn how to transform your New Year's resolutions from fleeting intentions into enduring, life-altering achievements. It’s time to break the cycle of broken promises and be part of the select group who not only set resolutions but bring them to life, year after year.

Why You Fail to Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions

At the start of each new year, 35-45% of adults set New Year's resolutions. Despite these well-intended aspirations, the majority fail in their resolve to make a change. In fact, research predicts most people throw in the towel on January 19, which is now called "Quitter's Day." This phenomenon isn't just about personal willpower. It's deeply rooted in both scientific and spiritual principles that influence human behavior and decision-making.  These are some of the primary reasons you may have failed to stick to your New Year’s resolutions:

  • Unrealistic Goals: Often, resolutions are set without a realistic assessment of what's achievable, leading to goals that are too ambitious or too vague, like aiming to be 'healthier' or 'happier' without defining what these mean in tangible terms. Or desiring to 'earn more money' without specifying an amount or a concrete plan. Such goals lack clear benchmarks for success, making it difficult to track progress and stay motivated. This misalignment between aspiration and practicality sets the stage for early disappointment and abandonment.
  • Lack of Readiness to Change: In order to succeed in making behavioral changes, you must be mentally prepared and committed. The science of behavior change categorizes the process of change into stages. In the precontemplation stage, you may not recognize a behavior, such as unhealthy eating, as problematic. As you move to the contemplation stage, you might acknowledge the need for a healthier diet but remain hesitant to take action, thinking, “I know I have a problem, and I should probably do something about it.” This behavior is also known as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. True transformation requires moving beyond these initial stages, to the preparation and action stages, embracing the discomfort of change and being ready to disrupt routine habits.
  • Habitual Resistance: Your brain forms mental shortcuts, developing habits that simplify daily life. These become deeply ingrained, leading to automatic behaviors like mindlessly snacking while watching TV or hitting the snooze button each morning. This preference for efficiency and comfort leads to what's known as 'status quo bias,' where you naturally favor familiar habits over new, challenging ones. Altering these habits requires significant effort, as it involves reworking your brain's neural pathways. Neuro-imaging studies highlight that changing behavior isn't just about deciding to act differently. It involves a cognitively-taxing process, much more demanding than simply following the well-trodden paths of habitual action. Your brain, inclined to minimize effort, often resists this change, leading to a tendency to revert to familiar habits, especially under stress or when faced with challenges.
  • Lack of Spiritual or Values Alignment: Resolutions may fail when they don't align with your deeper values or life purpose, leading to a lack of meaningful connection essential for long-term commitment. You may set goals based on what you think you should be doing or achieving — like aiming to earn more money. But if these aims aren't in line with your core values, it can create a subconscious resistance to your resolutions, making it more likely that you’ll revert to the comfort of old habits. To create resolutions that last, they need to be more than smart or well-planned. They must be a true reflection of what you deeply care about. This alignment turns resolutions into more than tasks to complete — they become stepping stones to a life that's authentically satisfying and intrinsically rewarding.
  • Inadequate Planning: Scientifically, our brains thrive on clear patterns and predictable outcomes, which is why a lack of strategic planning can be a significant barrier to resolution success. When you don't set a step-by-step action plan, your brain doesn't have a clear path to follow, making it difficult to form the neural connections needed for new habits. Each step in a plan can act as a cue for the brain, triggering the next action and reinforcing the new habit loop. Without this structure, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for organizing and acting on complex goals, doesn't receive the support it needs to effectively drive behavior change.
  • Neglecting Emotional Rewards: Both scientifically and spiritually, the role of emotional rewards in sustaining motivation is crucial. Acknowledging small successes triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter often dubbed the 'feel-good chemical,' in the brain. This release provides a sense of pleasure and satisfaction, reinforcing the behavior that led to the success and encouraging its repetition. By neglecting to celebrate small wins, you're denying yourself these dopamine-driven boosts of encouragement, which can be essential for maintaining long-term motivation and commitment to your resolutions.
  • Misaligned Timing with Nature’s Cycles: Historically, the concept of New Year's resolutions aligns poorly with natural cycles for growth and renewal. Ancient cultures celebrated the new year during the Spring Equinox, a time symbolizing new life and beginnings, perfect for sowing the seeds of change. In stark contrast, our modern calendar starts the year in the depths of winter, a time traditionally associated with rest and reflection rather than active transformation. This cultural shift means that, spiritually, our resolutions are often out of sync with the natural world's rhythm. As we attempt to kickstart new endeavors in winter, we go against the seasonal flow, which may partly explain why many resolutions don't take root and flourish.

Understanding why resolutions fail requires a blend of scientific insight and spiritual introspection. Recognizing these underlying reasons is the first step towards crafting more effective and sustainable resolutions. Next, we'll delve into the science and spirit of change, exploring strategies that can significantly increase your chances of being part of the successful few who achieve their New Year's resolutions. 

The Science of Change: Harnessing Neuroplasticity for Transformation  

The secret to making New Year's resolutions stick lies in your brain's amazing capacity for change, known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can transform fleeting intentions into lasting habits. To tap into this potential effectively, consider rethinking how you frame your resolutions, set your goals, and establish rewarding routines.

Framing Your Resolutions

The way you frame your resolutions significantly impacts their success rate. Research suggests that approach-oriented goals — focusing on introducing new, positive habits — are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals, which revolve around quitting or avoiding something. For instance, instead of saying "I will stop drinking soda," reframe it as "I will drink water and tea throughout the day." This positive approach not only eliminates an unhealthy habit but also replaces it with a healthier one, increasing the likelihood of adherence and success. Such framing aligns with the concept that behaviors cannot simply be erased. They need to be replaced with alternatives. This method becomes particularly useful in habitual activities, like smoking, where finding healthier substitutes or behaviors can significantly aid in breaking the habit.

Setting SMART Goals

Once you've positively framed your resolutions, the next step is to set SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This method aligns your goals with your brain's natural learning processes, enhancing your ability to adapt and create lasting behavioral changes. For example, if your framed goal is to increase physical activity, a SMART version of this goal could be, "I will go for a 30-minute walk five days a week after dinner." This goal is specific (30-minute walk), measurable (five days a week), achievable (a realistic interval), relevant (improves physical health), and time-bound (after dinner each day).

Establishing Rewarding Routines

Rewarding routines play a crucial role in reinforcing the new neural pathways you are trying to establish. When a behavior is rewarding, it's more likely to be repeated, and over time, this repetition strengthens the neural connections associated with the activity. Integrating rewards into your routines can be simple. Following the earlier example, after each week of completing your walking routine, you could reward yourself with a small treat, like watching extra episodes of your favorite show or buying a new book. These rewards don't have to be elaborate. They just need to provide enough incentive to keep you motivated. By understanding and applying these principles of neuroplasticity, you can transform your resolutions from mere aspirations into sustainable, lifelong habits. Remember, the key is in the framing — switching from avoidance to approach. In the planning — making goals SMART.  And in the execution — ensuring routines are rewarding. This three-pronged strategy doesn't just make resolutions more achievable. It aligns them with your brain's natural processes, setting you up for long-term success and personal growth.

The Spirit of Change: Values, Perception, Purpose, and Practices

Transforming your New Year's resolutions into lasting habits involves more than a scientific approach. It's deeply connected to understanding your core values, reframing your perception, identifying your why, and adopting spirit-centered practices. This comprehensive approach ensures that your resolutions are true reflections of your inner self and broader life aspirations.

Clarifying Your Values

Identifying your core values is an essential first step in the journey of meaningful change. These values are more than just ideals. They are the foundation upon which your actions and decisions are built. If you haven't clarified your values recently, or perhaps ever, now is an opportune time to engage in this reflective exercise. Aligning your resolutions with these values ensures that your goals resonate deeply with your true self, thereby enhancing the likelihood of their persistence.

To clarify your values, take time for introspection. Reflect on moments when you felt most fulfilled or proud. What were you doing? What aspects of those experiences did you most cherish? Write down these reflections and look for patterns to identify your core values. For instance, if moments of creativity consistently stand out, this could indicate that creativity is a core value for you. Consequently, a resolution to write daily or learn a new art form isn't just a goal. It becomes an expression of your authentic self.

This process of identifying and aligning with your core values transforms your resolutions from disciplined tasks into profound expressions of your identity. It bridges the gap between desire and action, infusing your goals with meaning and purpose.

Reframing Your Perceptions

Perception reframing is a powerful technique that can profoundly alter your approach to resolutions. It's about changing the lens through which you view your goals and the challenges associated with them. By reframing your perceptions, you can transform perceived obstacles into opportunities for personal growth and development. This shift in mindset is not just theoretical. It has practical implications for your motivation and ability to adhere to your resolutions.

To practice perception reframing, start by identifying a resolution that feels daunting. For example, if waking up early seems like a struggle, try to view it as an opportunity to enjoy quiet, undisturbed time for yourself, or as a way to add more productive hours to your day. This change in perspective can turn a challenging resolution into an inviting opportunity.

Additionally, techniques like EVOX perception-reframing therapy at Silver Tree Wellness Center offer a structured approach to perception reframing. EVOX uses biofeedback technology to help you recognize and shift subconscious perceptions that may be holding you back. By speaking about various topics, the system captures your voice patterns, which are then analyzed to identify areas where perception reframing could be beneficial. It then delivers the missing frequencies back to you through the biofeedback technology. This innovative approach provides a unique and insightful way to address and transform the underlying perceptions that impact your daily life and resolutions. Using EVOX as part of your journey can bring a new level of awareness and empowerment, enabling you to tackle resolutions with a refreshed and more positive outlook.

Establishing Your 'Why'

Your 'why' is the driving force behind your resolutions, acting as the deeper reason that fuels your commitment and determination. A strong and clear 'why' not only provides motivation but also imbues your goals with a sense of purpose. This deeper understanding transforms a routine task into a meaningful part of your personal journey.

To effectively establish your 'why,' you can engage in practical exercises like the 'Seven Levels Deep' exercise. This process involves asking yourself 'why' seven times to dig deeper into your initial reason. For example, if your resolution is to save money, start by asking why you want to save money. Your first answer might be to achieve financial independence. Ask 'why' again to understand why financial independence is important to you, and continue this process until you've asked 'why' seven times. By the end of this exercise, you'll likely uncover a fundamental reason that resonates deeply with your values and life goals, such as ensuring long-term security and well-being for your family.

This practice of delving deep into the reasons behind your actions helps to solidify your resolutions, giving them a strong foundation. When challenges arise, recalling your 'why' can reinvigorate your resolve and help you stay on track. It transforms your resolutions from being just about the outcome to being about fulfilling a part of your identity or life mission.

Integrating Spirit-Centered Practices

Spiritual practices offer a profound way to bolster mental resilience and deepen your commitment to change. Activities like meditation, mindfulness, or even nature walks serve as bridges, connecting you to something greater than yourself, be it the universe, nature, or your own inner consciousness.

These practices provide a valuable anchor, helping you stay aligned with your inner values and the larger purpose behind your goals. For instance, a regular meditation routine can offer clarity and focus, reinforcing the reasons behind your resolutions. Similarly, engaging in reflective activities like journaling or creative arts allows for introspection and a deeper understanding of your place in the world.

Adopting these spirit-centered practices doesn’t require adherence to a specific religious belief. They are about finding what resonates with you on a personal level and using it to foster a sense of connection and purpose. Whether it's through moments of silence, gratitude exercises, or creative expression, these practices integrate your resolutions into a broader narrative of personal growth and fulfillment. They encourage you to view your goals not just as individual tasks but as parts of a holistic journey towards a more meaningful and connected life.


As you think about your New Year’s resolutions this year, consider the wisdom of Socrates: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new." While he didn't know about neuroplasticity or the biological intricacies of habit formation, his words echo today's understanding of effective personal change.

This ancient insight aligns with the modern concepts we've explored about the science and spirit of change. It suggests that true transformation lies not in battling against past habits, but in channeling your efforts towards creating new, positive changes. This approach, backed by an understanding of how the brain adapts and forms new connections, can empower you to reshape your life in alignment with your deepest values and aspirations.

This year, as you embark on a journey of change, embrace the art of building the new in your life, using your resolutions as stepping stones towards a future you consciously shape by sticking to your New Year’s resolutions. Here's to a transformative journey ahead, filled with growth, discovery, and the realization of your fullest potential.