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Avoid This Common New Year’s Resolutions Pitfall: Turkeys

· 7 min read
Introducing too many behavior changes for New Year's Resolutions can make you feel overwhelmed.

In this last post of 2022, we want to discuss a common pitfall that can derail your New Year's resolutions (it happened to me!). And we also offer up a recipe to combat it, so that you can steadily work towards your goals.

We are just a few days away from counting down to the New Year. In this last month of 2022, we have been featuring blog posts relevant to New Year's resolutions: tips to set goals effectively, how to use HeroMode as a habit tracker, and an example HeroMode use case of establishing a new habit.

In this final post of the year, we need to also discuss the one common pitfall that can derail your New Year's resolutions: turkeys. More specifically, too many turkeys. Too many cold turkeys (quitting bad habits), and also too many hot turkeys (starting new behaviors). All off to the races running amok as soon as the calendar turns January 1st.

Biting off More Turkeys Than I Could Chew

I've had this problem myself. A couple of years ago, shortly after the New Year, I downloaded a habit tracker app. There were many areas of my life I wanted to improve. I wanted to stop playing video games (a cold turkey). I also wanted to start reading for 30 minutes each day (a hot turkey). My wishlist didn't stop there. I wanted to write for a few hours each week, as well as calling my parents. In addition, at that time, I read about the relationship between gratitude and happiness, so another resolution I had was to write down three things I was thankful for each day. And then of course there were the common goals of exercising and eating well. I inputted all these goals one by one. My app became very busy and colorful with all my hot and cold turkeys, and I was very excited. I even subscribed the app for the annual plan. I was fully committed to build a new me!

Each day, I had several items I needed to complete in the habit tracker app. In the first few days, I was driven with enthusiasm. I was able to complete all my tasks. But as the days went by, I started to lag behind. There were so many things that needed to be done each day. And there were some days when I didn't have time for all of them. As the tasks began to pile on, I began to feel guilty. Soon I was feeling too guilty to open the app: all those uncompleted tasks just reminded me how I wasn't persistent enough. By February, I had stopped completely. A new me did not materialize.

This was not an issue with the habit tracker app. The app was great. It was me who bit off more turkeys than I could chew. I was trying to change too much at once.

Changing A Behavior Requires Small, Incremental Steps

Introducing a new routine is like diverting the river of your continuous behavior. Imposing several new goals all at once, like I did, is like asking the river to make an U-turn overnight. On December 31, the river flows in one direction. On January 1, we want it to flow the opposite way. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but the insurmountable effort required makes it unrealistic.

Split Turkeys Into Many Courses

So how should we approach New Year's resolutions? Here is what I'd do with my long list of goals knowing what I know now, using HeroMode.

  1. Identify which one of your goals is the most important to you. Start with this goal first. For example, out of all my resolutions, if I have to pick one, I'd go with journaling things I'm thankful for each day. Research suggests that being thankful can improve our overall well-being, and that sounds like it'd have positive effects on many areas of my life. So I'd prioritize this goal.

  2. Create an adventure for your primary goal; create a repeat quest for the daily or weekly task. We have an easy-to-follow, three-steps guide on how to use HeroMode as a habit tracker. Very quickly you can set up your primary goal in HeroMode and start building this new routine!

  3. Take it even easier; avoid repeating quests too frequently. Originally, I wanted to practice thankfulness every day. But having had the experience of being overwhelmed by incompleted tasks, this time around, I'd set up my new routine for just a few times a week, instead of every day. For example, write down three things I'm thankful for on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Then adjust as I go.

  4. For other goals, organize them as a separate adventure, and set up reminder quests that unlock in the future. For example, set up another adventure called "Pending 2023 New Year's Resolutions", and for each goal, create a reminder quest that automatically unlocks at a future time. For me, my second highest prioritized goal is to build an exercise routine, so I'd create a quest called "Resolution on exercise routine", and lock it until, say, February 1st. The idea is that I want to introduce new habits gradually. Similarly, I'd add quests like "Resolution to stop playing video games.", "Resolution to call parents every week", "Resolution to read everyday", "Resolution to write every week", etc, as additional quests to the "Pending 2023 New Year's Resolutions" adventure.

  5. When time comes to introduce another resolution, evaluate if you are ready. For example, when February 1st arrives, I'll see how my gratitude habit is taking shape, and if my "resolution appetite" is ready for another turkey. If not, then simply lock the resolution for another month. You might even find that adopting one behavior successfully can have some convenient side effects. For example, if I'm reading and exercising, then I might not have the time for video games anymore.

Rules of Thumb When Introducing Many Behavior Changes

The purpose of the recipe above is to space out the behavior changes you want. How much to space them out? And how frequently should the daily tasks be? My suggestion would be the following:

  • When introducing a new behavior, each repeated quest should not take too long to complete (less than 15 minutes being the ideal).

  • You can repeat the quest daily, but it's also great to start off just a few days a week instead of every day. You can always increase the frequency later.

  • Introduce new behaviors at least one month apart.

  • Continuously monitor your progress, and assess how your lifestyle is accomodating the new behavior change.

So far, the most successful habit building use cases we have seen with HeroMode, such as for fitness, health, productivity, and quitting Reddit, all come from users who have introduced their new habits slowly and incrementally. So, be patient! A new you takes time to build. Don't overwhelm yourself with too many goals, too many tasks, too many turkeys. Take small bites over time!

Finally, Happy New Year to you! It's been an honor to be a part of your self embetterment jouney, and I can't say enough how much we appreciate you!