Witmer’s Wisdom: Five Habit-Forming Strategies for the New Year

No willpower? No problem. Five habit-building strategies you can use now that you’ve already given up on your new year’s resolutions.

Welcome to the New Year!

It’s no secret that most people don’t keep their resolutions past the end of January. In fact, most attempts at significant life changes will fail the first time you try. And that’s okay! Today you have an opportunity to try again.

So, with that in mind, here are a few strategies to help you build some new healthy habits for yourself this year. Whether you are trying to develop better eating, sleeping, or training habits, these can work for you!

Strategy #1: The Habit Stack

The easiest way to build a new habit is to tie it to one you already have. Is there anything – anything at all – that you are already doing every day?

Trying to do core work every day? Try doing it after every time you brush your teeth. Or while you are waiting for your coffee to brew. Trying to move more during the work day? Commit to one set of some body weight exercises every time you refill your coffee or take a bathroom break.

What other habits can you tie together?

Strategy #2: Start Tiny

Make a habit that supports the bigger habit. Tiny habits with low resistance are easier to build. So start small! Instead of trying to stick to a strict diet, can you eat one more serving of vegetables per day? Instead of an intimidating workout plan, can you start with 15-20 minutes of moderately easy workouts per day?1

Prioritize momentum and the habit building itself over results in the beginning. This method also allows you to build confidence in your own ability to build a new habit. Try this method until the end of February and feel the difference for yourself!

Strategy #3: Learn to love it!

A tricky but highly effective way to keep a habit going is to find a way to love it. How do we learn to love something?

The most effective method is to learn to love parts of the things related to your goals. Finding vegetables you truly like to eat will help you with healthy eating habits. Finding a training routine you enjoy will help you stay with it.

But sometimes learning to love the thing itself takes time. Tying it to something you already enjoy can help you while appreciation for your new habits take hold. We can start by associating something unpleasant with something pleasant. Hate doing your mobility exercises or foam rolling? Try doing it while listening to a favorite podcast or watching a guilty pleasure TV show. For added effect, allow yourself to watch your favorite show only while doing the thing you don’t want to do.

What other things can you associate with a habit you don’t enjoy (yet)? Favorite music? A cool new location?

Strategy #4: If X, then I will Y

Make a simple plan to keep yourself on track! A simple “If/then” plan can help you notice common triggers that may derail you.

Here are some examples of making plans to eat better, train regularly, or get up earlier:

  • If the equipment I need at the gym is busy, I will do a similar exercise with other equipment instead.
  • If I forget to pack healthy snacks for work, I will go to the corner store and do my best instead of getting fast food for lunch.
  • If I don’t sleep well, I will let myself take a power nap in the afternoon instead of hitting snooze in the morning.
  • If I don’t feel like working out, I promise myself I will leave the gym after 15 minutes.

What obstacles can you overcome with some simple if/then plans?

Strategy #5: Win or Learn

Adopt a “Win or Learn” mentality. When you get off track, don’t get mad; get curious!

Can you remember any events or thoughts that happened before you made a decision not in line with your goals? If so, then you can make a simple plan to try to not fail in the same way again. Each “failure” is just an experiment on the way to your eventual success.

If you try to willpower your way to success, your odds of reaching your goals are very low. Instead, be searching for a path of least resistance to your goal, with each misstep giving you clues to the overall methodology that’s going to work best for you!

Why This is Important

I want to acknowledge that the flip of the calendar hasn’t eliminated all of the problems of 2020. It’s easy in these circumstances to stay glued to the news, get lost in worry, or forget to take care of ourselves.

Taking care of yourself, building habits, having goals, and staying connected to ultimate can all be part of your self-care plan. And when we are able to care for ourselves, we are more capable of caring for those around us too. If you’ve neglected setting some New Year’s goals because it feels unimportant, I’d like to invite you to reconsider. What do you want for yourself this year? And what’s the smallest step you can take in that direction?

Best of luck!

  1. See our program at 6weekSAQ.com if you want to get started on something like this! 

  1. Melissa Witmer

    Melissa Witmer is the founder of the Ultimate Athlete Project. She has been a part of the ultimate community since 1996, and is an author, content creator, and coach. Something of a citizen of the world, Melissa lives and works abroad and has instructed and connected ultimate players and coaches from all over the world.

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