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Making Resolutions Stick: The Power of Default Behaviors

January 23, 2024 | Bilof's Corner

Time to change Habits

Given this is the time of year for resolutions, I figured I would chime in with my own
suggestion for how to be successful with whatever your resolution is: Make the desired behavior (your resolution) the default behavior.

Eventually, we all lose the battle with willpower (the main reason resolutions, and diets for that matter, often don’t work). So, rather than have a daily battle with willpower I suggest simply creating a rule and following it. You’ve been following rules your whole life, so let’s hack that system to our advantage.

Consider a common resolution: “Lose 20 (or 30) pounds in 2024”. A supportive behavior for this goal could be a straightforward rule: “I don’t eat dessert.” This rule becomes a shield against social pressure at events like office parties or birthdays, where the temptation to make exceptions is high. When faced with such situations, simply stating your rule often diffuses the social pressure.

Another effective default behavior for weight loss is: “I exercise for 45 minutes every day.” Think of it as you do your job: you don’t negotiate with yourself about going to work; you just do it. Similarly, exercise shouldn’t be a daily debate. The question is not “Should I exercise today?” but rather “When will I exercise today?” This subtle shift in mindset can be incredibly powerful and life-changing.

Additionally, joining a group or class where the default behavior aligns with your desired outcome can be beneficial. This could be a cooking class (since home-cooked meals are generally healthier), a yoga class, a running or biking club, or even a swim class at your local YMCA. Surrounding yourself with a group whose default behavior matches your goal can significantly bolster your resolution.

By reframing our approach and setting default behaviors, we can make our resolutions more than just yearly aspirations; we can turn them into sustainable, everyday habits.

Happy New Year everyone!

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