Top Tips for Making New Habits Stick

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

Well, here it is already mid-way through March!!! How many of us made New Year’s Resolutions back in January? If you are like me, you were full of enthusiasm and committed to take action to make THIS the year that everything falls into place? How did that work out?

Letters spelling the word Change
Change can be uncomfortable

The thing is, it’s so easy to start something, but really hard to keep it going. You see, even when we KNOW that this is something good for us, change pushes us out of our comfort zone and our mind interprets that as a threat, so it goes all out to keep us comfortably where we are, within the safety of what we already know.

Why is this change important to you?

So change is hard, but not impossible. To achieve sustained change involves effort, so you need to understand why this is important to you. Your mind is likely to come up with all sorts of reasons against upsetting the status quo. Do any of these sound familiar?

“Its too hard, too difficult, too painful”

“I might get hurt”,

“I don’t have time, I can’t afford it”

“I might fail”,

“I might not be good at it”

“People will think I am silly, a loser, hopeless,”

This is where you can link back to your core values. Understanding what matters in your life and what you want to stand for enables you to take committed action towards what matters. Consider how making this change will take you closer to the kind of person you want to be and the way you want to live your life.

How do people make lasting change?

The first step is to get really clear about what it is you are wanting to do. It can be really helpful to write all your thoughts and ideas in a journal. Take time to get really clear about what you are wanting to achieve. Explore your reasons for wanting to make this change.

For optimum success make it a SMART goal:

  • Specific: What will you do? Eg: I will practice mindfulness

  • Measurable: How often and for how long? Eg: for 5 minutes

  • Achievable: Do you have access to the required resources? Is it a realistic goal? Do you need support? Eg: using a guided mediation app

  • Relevant: Why are you bothering to do this? What will be the benefit? Is it related to your core values? Eg: so that I can be more present

  • Time-bound: When will you start? Is now the right time? Think about the day of the week, the time of day, Eg: Every morning after my shower and before my walk

It can also be really helpful to consider the potential barriers that might derail your plan, and to identify a Plan B. For example: What if its an outside activity but it rains? What if there is a power outage?

How to keep the change going?

So now that you are clear about what you plan to do, and how, when and why you plan to do it, how do you make it happen? What are the tips that will help you to continue with your plan?

  • Think about how you can set a reminder for yourself? There are apps for your phone, calendars on your computer, sticky notes on the bathroom mirror or fridge.

  • It can be easier to ‘remember’ if you link your new action to something that you already do as part of a regular routine. This will act as a ‘cue’ to do the new behaviour.

  • Its important for you to recognise and reward your efforts, even if you don’t actually do the task you have set, you are trying to implement something new, give yourself a pat on the back for the steps you have taken towards change so far.

  • Keep records of your achievements; in your notebook write down what you did, make a note of any thoughts and feelings you have about your new habit, and if anything unexpected got in the way, and how you overcame any challenges or how you might tweak it for next time.

  • Recruit a ‘cheer leader’ who you trust and who will be supportive of the changes you are trying to make, who can encourage you when you feel unmotivated, and who can celebrate the efforts you are making.

  • Take time to reflect along the way. Check in with yourself about your progress and if the goal is still valid, what is working or what could be changed. You could write about this in your notebook, and/or talk about it with your ‘cheer leader’

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” John Lennon


With all the best intentions in the world, the reality is that life can throw us a curveball that makes us re-evaluate what’s important.

Person walking up stairs
Take it one step at a time

This might be time to review your goal and the notes you have made along the way. Think about what’s working and what’s not, and be prepared to be flexible with your goals. Can you break the task down in to smaller steps?

Be aware of that harsh inner critic that’s just waiting to judge you, and remember to treat yourself kindly, gently and with compassion.

Give yourself permission to take your time, and to learn as you go and to move the goalposts if necessary. Its always ok to change your mind or review your plan.

Are you prepared to embrace the richness that a full life brings, both the pleasant and the unpleasant?

There’s no need to put your life on hold, or wait until you have achieved your goals, give yourself permission to begin living a full, rich and meaningful life right now.