What’s a New Year’s resolution, other than deciding to make or break a habit? Whether people decide to change things up on New Year’s or a birthday or any other benchmark in their lives, making a resolution means challenging those automatic behaviors we call habits. “I’m not getting enough exercise. I want to start every day by pedaling on my stationary bike for 15 minutes before breakfast.” “I always buy two glazed donuts at the shop at my bus stop on my way to work. It’s not good for me. I want to stop that.”
Habits are hard. They’re hard to make on purpose, and they’re hard to break once established. That’s because habits reside in more unconscious regions of the mind. Can you call it a habit if you must summon your willpower before you do (or don’t do) something? It isn’t a habit until it happens somewhat automatically and dwells somewhat below the surface of conscious thought. And getting them to move in or out of that more unconscious, automatic space can feel daunting.
That’s not intended to discourage anyone from trying. Good habits are created, and bad habits are demolished all the time, but it takes work and persistence.
How long need one persist? Forget all that stuff about 21 days of repeated practice being all that’s needed to form a habit (or whatever number of days is in vogue in self-help books). The time depends on the person, the complexity of the habit, and the level of motivation. It’s simply going to take as long as it takes. Some habits are easier to deal with than others, but no doubt they can all be tamed. Be encouraged. You only have to hang in there.
Personality Traits, Their Strengths, and Resolutions
With that in mind, there are plenty of resources available online and elsewhere for making and keeping resolutions. Goal-setting may be one of the biggest self-help topics online. Our intention here isn’t to repeat those.
Instead, we want to look at how your personality traits might give you an edge as a supplement to all the other advice. We hope to make a hard task a bit easier by describing the strengths your traits offer you for handling your resolutions more robustly. We want to help you find your edge.
Extraverted Personality Types: Change as a Social Affair
“Let’s encourage self-love and self-care in one another. Let’s help to make this world a better place.”
― Akiroq Brost
Who says resolutions must be a lonely affair? You get energy from others, so use that.
Setting up accountability with another person or a group of people can be helpful in keeping a resolution on track. Imagine coming into the office and announcing proudly to a designated person or group that you boldly walked past the donut shop you vowed to avoid. Not a single sweet donut-y morsel crossed your taste buds or added to your waistline... for the fifth day... for the tenth day... for a month. Or you show your significant other yet 15 more minutes of pre-dawn spinning ticked off on the calendar in the kitchen.
And the crowd goes wild. Victory. You’ll probably think long and hard before you go into the donut shop or hit the snooze button again. Soon, because of their support and your persistence, those behaviors may not even seem like an option. Your edge is your ability to derive energy and motivation from others.
Besides supportive family, friends, and work relationships, there are all manner of programs and groups for ending bad habits and forming good ones. Habit meetups of all kinds can be found online or in physical spaces. Weight loss programs, professional development groups, classes at the gym, the YMCA, or a community college might work for you. The key is finding the group that offers enough support to keep your energy level high enough to fulfill your promises to yourself.
Introverted Personality Types: Strength from Within
“I think one travels more usefully when they travel alone, because they reflect more.”
― Thomas Jefferson
If you read the Extravert section above, you probably shuddered at the prospect of making your resolution a community project. You’d rather not, thanks. You don’t need the fanfare. And that’s fine.
You might want to share your resolution and progress with somebody close to you whom you trust. But even that might involve more sharing than you prefer. Going it alone is okay. Your ability to do so may even be your edge.
Whether through meditation, journaling, or some other reflective method, the following two-step process can keep your resolutions on the front burner: setting intentions and making assessments. Be your own support group while you gather your energy in blissful solitude.
Setting intentions is simply reminding yourself of your resolve to do something different. “I intend to pass the donut shop without going in. It’s natural for me to want to go in, and I could easily do just that. But I don’t have to, and I’m making a choice not to.” Write about your intention or visualize it before you start your day. Of course, vague intentions and desires alone are not enough to defeat stubborn habits or to realize elusive new ones. Be sure that you connect it to a specific action.
Making assessments means just keeping yourself accountable. It’s just what it sounds like. Set a time during the day (best), the week (good), or the month (better than nothing) with your pen or your meditation cushion to celebrate your successes. And review any times you might have stumbled.
Your edge is your ability to keep your own counsel. That allows you to be more flexible because you aren’t waiting for someone else to offer you advice and support. In many ways, that’s the more agile way to handle change and the challenges it brings to you on any given day.
Intuitive Personality Types: When Unconscious Patterns Meet Automatic Behaviors
“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart.”
― Gavin De Becker
Perhaps, as an Intuitive personality, you tend to connect the dots almost subconsciously and might find trusting your “gut” to be useful. Intuitive flashes are not always correct. The wise Intuitive person learns to back up their “guts” with more concrete evidence. Intuition born of the imagination is usually just a starting point. But these individuals typically draw enough conclusions that are useful to know these flashes are worth paying attention to.
Intuition can serve as an early warning system notifying you that your plan is going off the rails. Something below the surface recognizes a pattern that may not look good for your developing behaviors. Such insight can be the motivator needed to reevaluate your plan. It can help you adjust it so that it becomes something more successful.
If your Intuition tells you that something is wrong, that isn’t a reason to abandon your resolution. If you set your goal carefully enough, and we hope you do, the new habit is probably realistic and worth saving. But perhaps your method needs adjusting. Keep the resolution but tweak the plan.
When used wisely, your Intuitive edge can be the thing that stands between success and failure. It can be useful in solving a subtler problem rather than allowing that problem to crush your resolve slowly.
Observant Personality Types: Bite-Sized Pieces of Reality
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
― Rachel Carson
While others might be wanting, needing, plotting, and dreaming, you’re typically more interested in doing. You change no habit without repeated action – either adding an action (spinning every day at 6:00 a.m.) or replacing a wanted behavior (walking past the donut shop) with an unwanted one (going into the shop). Your fondness for concrete reality and the practical actions that go with managing that reality give you your edge.
Too often people expect too much of themselves. They proverbially bite off more than they can chew. Instead of doing something, they dream about doing everything. Overwhelmed, they walk away. But not you. For you, the focus is the next reasonable thing that you must do. Then the next thing. Then the next thing. And that’s exactly how people form good habits and eliminate bad ones.
For your resolution edge to work for you, embrace the idea that it’s more important that change be effective rather than insisting it be big. Don’t fear small, more mundane goals and baby steps even if everyone around you tries to be more ambitious and loftier with their resolutions. Want to bet on which type of goal typically succeeds better?
Thinking Personality Types: Tackling Habits Objectively
“Music is either good or it isn’t, it’s not someone’s opinion.”
Whether you agree with Toscanini or not, Thinking personality types are likely to depend on cold facts and data more than opinion. Can you be fooled by your biases? Sure. You’re human. But you may be less likely to than other types. This more objective perspective also makes you less likely to rationalize any lapses.
Since you rely on fact-based decision making, you may not be so quick to fall for your own excuses if they fail to match reality. And letting oneself off the hook too often by rationalizing and excusing failures can erode a person’s attempt to change. You likely look for evidence of your progress or lack of progress. You probably keep a spreadsheet, either in your mind or even on a device, that objectively defines how well you’re doing.
If evidence shows you aren’t advancing toward a new good habit or eliminating a bad one, you’re likely to accept that cold reality. It’s not working. And knowing this allows you to reset your commitment and re-strategize your methods. This is likely to help you adjust your plans and to achieve success.
Your resolution edge is your ability to honestly and accurately assess your progress without making excuses and to develop plans to maintain or improve your performance.
Feeling Personality Types: Habits and Self-Compassion
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
― Louise L. Hay
Have we mentioned that dealing with habits is difficult? For you, basing so much on emotions, this may be a hard reality. While success feels oh so sweet, failure, even small and manageable failure, can feel bad. But since habits are so hard to change, some measure of failure and slip-ups is likely to occur.
If you become too discouraged, you may find yourself giving up. But what advice would you give others from your ample heart? Would you advise them to quit pursuing a healthy new direction because of a slip-up? Of course not. So, turn that around and point it at yourself. Your edge may be your greater capacity for caring how people feel. Try some self-compassion.
Forgive yourself when you miss a target. Allow yourself to be humanly imperfect. Once you show yourself compassion and forgive yourself, take the advice of Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind – “Tomorrow is another day.” Recommit to your resolution. Even expect that you will fail again. But failure doesn’t have to be terminal, and it isn’t a character flaw. Be kind to yourself and try again.
Your resolution edge is your ability to show compassion – in this case, self-compassion.
Judging Personality Types: Making Habits More Predictable
“Routine is liberating, it makes you feel in control.”
― Carol Shields
Since habits are automatic things that occur with little input from your conscious decision-making process, setting up your life to take some of the decision-making out of your resolution strategy may help. For example, you might put your alarm clock across the room and bury it under your workout clothes and place your sneakers beside it. Sure, you can toss them aside and still hit the snooze button, but you’re probably much less likely to – off to the spin bike you go.
Judging personality types love when things are predictable and “anchoring” the sweats to another action lends itself to that predictability. Instead of giving yourself time to decide if you feel enough like working out to dig your clothes out of a drawer, the decision was already half-made at a time when it was easier to do so. Your resolution edge is your organized way of thinking and your preference for things unfolding as planned. So, set up your new habits to blend seamlessly into your plans.
Remove offending food from your fridge if you’re hoping to change your diet. Decide to routinely get off at the bus stop a few stops early if you want to increase your exercise. (You’re going to work, anyway. Might as well get some steps in during your commute.) Set the smart home lights to begin to fade throughout the house at the same time every night to guarantee you get up early enough to hop on that bike. Make action a foregone conclusion, and you will find your resolution edge.
Prospecting Personality Types: Flexibility Where You Need It
“That which yields is not always weak.”
― Jacqueline Carey
Some might think that the Prospecting ability to shift gears and change direction rather easily makes keeping resolutions difficult, and it can. Dealing with habits requires constancy. One day you’re dedicated to the cause and the next a new interest pops up, or you notice a brand-new habit that needs forming. It quickly overshadows and crushes the original resolution. But that same flexibility can be a powerful tool if it’s applied in the right places.
Often resolutions fail because people’s methods for developing new habits are too rigid. Because of that, they can’t adapt when conditions aren’t what they expect. (The quirky alarm clock forgets to wake you for the morning spin once too often. Geez. Why bother?)
Prospecting individuals are much more likely to go with the flow and adjust as they need to. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to stick with your overarching resolution. You still need a target to shoot for. But within that goal, you can explore variations as you are likely to anyway.
The fact that you aren’t so rigid may give you an edge. Where others snap because of unforeseen events, Prospecting personality types are more likely to bend and spring back. Your resilience can prevent you from giving up when realities and details shift. You still need to hold tight to an overarching goal that remains consistent. But once that’s nailed down and protected, you can play with the rest.
Feel Free to Mix and Match
We hope this a la carte presentation helps you appreciate your trait-based edges when it comes to keeping your resolutions. Use those that match your personality traits, or feel free to borrow approaches and attitudes from traits that don’t “belong” to you if you wish. (We find a good strategy for balance sometimes includes borrowing other personality types’ characteristic traits from “across the aisle” – see Kyle’s outstanding treatment of the subject.)
The best of luck in however you choose to succeed with this year’s batch of resolutions.
We look forward to hearing about your positive change. Let us know in the comments below!