Setting goals for healthy habits in the New Year is one thing, sticking to them is an entirely different ball game. Whether it be getting more exercise, eating better, or trying something new to live a more purposeful life, we’ve all set out for goals that haven’t come to fruition because, well…we stopped doing what was needed to achieve them.

The buck stops in 2023. Here’s what our team of sport psychologists had to say about how to maintain those goals and habits that you know will help you reach the best version of yourself.

Stay Socially Accountable
Having an ally in your corner of the ring is a game-changer when it comes to staying true to your goals. When trying to establish new healthy habits, one of the best strategies is to come up with ways to stay “socially accountable.” That might be reaching out to a friend to go to the gym with you at a certain time of the day, or telling your partner/spouse you’ll make dinner over the weekend. When we commit to more than the behavior itself, we’re more likely to follow through because it involves people we care about.

Maximize your Chances by Setting Process Goals
One of the best ways to give yourself an edge before even starting the journey? Utilize process goals to work towards your big goals. Set an outcome goal, such as “gain 25 pound on my bench press before summer” and then work backwards to identify the things that need to be accomplished on a weekly or even daily basis. Then set goals around those things. Some examples for the situation above might be getting eight hours of sleep per night, eating three healthy meals per day, exercise three days per week, and push yourself to failure each training session. Focus on the process goals and trust the outcome will be reached.

Take it Easy
There’s no shame in selecting habits or goals that are perceived as ‘easy.’ In fact, setting and achieving easy goals will give you the confidence and consistency to go forth and achieve greater goals. Simply put, if it’s a stretch or challenging, it’s not going to get done. For example, rather than saying “I’m going to meditate every day for 10 minutes,” try to commit to one or two minutes each day.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up for a Missed Day
Consistency means doing something for an extended period of time and is everything for living out goals and healthy habits…yet missing a day or two doesn’t mean that you’ve lost your consistency or the habit. We’re humans, nobody is perfect. If you miss a day or two, don’t view it as a failure. Simply acknowledge it, turn the page, and complete the habit the next day.

We Are Our Actions
Our actions and aspirations mold who we are as humans. Tie your habits to your identity. Finish the sentence “I want to be the type of person who….” and then go from there. It’s important for your habits to be meaningful and important to you and associating them with your core identity is a great way to build that bridge.

Stack Your Habits
Place the new with the old. Stack the new habits you’re aspiring towards on top of existing habits or behaviors in your life. For example, try combining foam rolling with watching Netflix. If you’re hanging out and watching TV, you might as well do some stretching or mobility work while you’re at it. Combining the new behavior with an old one that you enjoy will help the new habit become more synchronous with your brain.

Physical Reminders = Mental Habits
If you’re trying to work on your footwork and your jump rope lives in the back of your closet, you’re setting yourself up for a losing equation. Set the tools necessary to practice your goals and habits in a clearly visible space so it’s near impossible to forget about. Trying to drink more water? Put your water bottle in front of the door so you can’t miss if before leaving for work or school. Trying to stretch more after practice? Put that foam roller in your living room where you wind down at the end of the day.

Track Progress for Self-Gratification
It can be tough to feel as if you’ve made progress in an ever-changing and fast-paced world…even when you’ve significantly moved the needle. Utilizing visual indicators for tracking your progress is not only satisfying, but can give you the motivation to keep churning full speed ahead. There are plenty of habit trackers that you can purchase hard copies of online, as well as virtual options and apps for your phone.

Focus on Turning the Ignition, Not Driving the Car
The hardest part of maintaining a habit is getting started. It can feel overwhelming to look at the task as a giant mountain to climb such as getting your daily workout in, cooking a meal at home, completing a homework assignment, or training an aspect of your sport that you are not proficient in yet. If you can say to yourself,  I will do the first step (i.e. put your workout clothes on, pull the ingredients out of the fridge, go to a coffee shop with your laptop or pull out your homework assignment, text coach to set up a time to get some extra training in) while giving yourself permission to step out if necessary, typically that doesn’t happen. Commit to doing the easiest first step and watch as your motivation builds through taking that initial action.