top of page

The #1 Way to Make Your Resolutions Stick

Updated: Jan 16

People have considered the New Year the benchmark of a new beginning and, hence, a time for resolutions from time immemorial. Unfortunately, statistics intuitively confirm what we all know—most resolutions get broken. Why is that?

Several years ago, when I began writing my weekly messages—which later turned into my book Brain Drain—I sought to figure out why we lose motivation so quickly. We all get inspired—whether by a motivational speaker, a member of the clergy, a book, or a movie—only to fall back into our daily routine, where we quickly lose that inspiration and remember that, after all, we're just ordinary mortals.

Our primitive nature, our automatic, primitive brain (AB), wants to protect us from danger. The familiar is the comfort point, and anything unfamiliar (unknown) is inherently dangerous, at least to our primitive brain. The AB knows two ways to "protect" us: fight or flight. So, it fights or flees the unfamiliar (in this case, the new behavior we've been motivated to adopt) at the slightest sign of change. It is easy to slip back into the old, counterproductive habits without solid motivation.

When the New Year rolls around, we decide we will make those changes we've put off since the failed resolutions of last year. The resolution list may be long. The problem is, if our AB fights or flees every little unfamiliar change, a long list of resolutions to adopt new and unfamiliar behavior will put it in overdrive. It's too bad that we allow ourselves to be played like this, but if we are not aware of the machinations of this primitive part of our nature, we are condemned to have it control us.

One trick I find helpful in removing the AB from the resolution equation is changing the focus from plural to singular. For the New Year 2022, I suggest you make a New Year resolution. That's right, not multiple resolutions, just one. Your resolution list may include quitting smoking AND, losing weight AND, not biting your nails, AND, being nicer to people AND, watching less television AND, exercising more, etc… But if all of these behaviors are unfamiliar territory for you, your AB will fight or flee all of them, and it is unlikely you will be successful at any. But be careful with this. I have seen people say, "This year, I resolve to stop eating sugar." Since sugar is in many foods, you are actually resolving to cut out many ordinary foods. Your AB will fight or flee all dietary changes, which is a practical impossibility.

One resolution means one resolution. Focus on one change at a time. For example, if losing weight is your goal, resolve to eliminate one specific food. Move on to eliminating another only after the first change has become a habit. Or decide to be diligent at monitoring your food intake using one of numerous fitness and wellness APPs.


Habits fuel the AB because they represent familiar behaviors and define us. As humans, we possess the universal danger trigger of the unknown. As we approach the unknown, our AB will cause us to fight or flee it, and this is precisely what happens when we try to break habits, as self-destructive as they may be. To begin taking this primitive, reactive brain out of the equation, take one step at a time. You're far more likely to achieve a successful resolution, starting a bright New Year with possibility, excitement, and renewed hope.

Incorporate this singular resolution strategy into your New Year's plan, focusing on one attainable goal: a dietary change, exercise routine, or mental wellness practice to transform your life in the coming year.

© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD

1 view0 comments


bottom of page