The Surprising Way to Make Your Habits Stick

by Kristen Rogers Anderson

So many of us love the “fresh start” feeling of a new year (plus this one is on a Monday? Awww yeah) and the clean, blank page it represents, having turned the page on the previous year, and it’s trials, tribulations, failures, and habits forgotten.



But notoriously, those intentions and resolutions often end up falling by the wayside by the time February rolls around.

January Challenges like the Whole 30, a healthy eating program that’s especially popular in the first month of the year — or Dry January, a month of abstaining from alcohol — become battles fought, conquered and forgotten rather than the jump-starts to a lifestyle change integrated into everyday life that they’re often intended to be.

I don’t often set New Year’s Resolutions because I’m continually trying to improve myself and my life [insert hair flip gif here]. I do get a little thrill of fresh-start excitement and sometimes tack onto new habits, hoping that the optimism of the world trying new things will give me some momentum, but the date isn’t necessarily a huge motivator for me.

After all, time is a flat circle, man.

And so as someone who likes to tweak her routines and habits on a regular basis, I feel somewhat qualified to give you my personal, unscientific advice on how to start something new in the new year: half-ass it.

What I mean by that is figuring out the barriers to folding something new into your life, and then removing them from the equation — even if it ends up changing something about the thing itself.

I’ll give you a couple of examples from my own life that are usually high on people’s New Year’s resolution radars.


At one point, I wasn’t meditating as consistently as I would have liked. I knew I felt better when I did it, that my days were better and my moods more even, so what was the problem? What was it, when I thought to myself “I should meditate,” that kept me from following through?

The answer was deceptively simple: it was uncomfortable. For most meditation techniques, it’s advised to sit in an upright position with your spine upright and unsupported — what’s often referred to as “a dignified posture.” This way, rather than getting lax and sleepy because you’re too comfortable, you can remain focused and alert. You know what’s REALLY lax though? Not doing it at all because it makes your back hurt and it sucks. Once I realized my barrier, I started allowing myself to sit on the couch or in bed when I meditated, and I magically started doing it more because it didn’t suck anymore. Is it the absolute A+ version of meditation? Probably not. But I get far more benefit out of half-assing meditation than not doing it at all.

Regular Exercise

Another habit that crashed and burned was regular exercise. Earlier this year, I was trying to make it to barre class a few times a week and always falling short because the studio was far away and the classes weren’t great for my schedule. That was followed by an iffy attempt to take it down a notch by going to classes at the gym nearby a few times a week. Still a nope.

For this one, the half-assed habit that I actually stick to is doing yoga in my apartment along with YouTube videos from Yoga With Adriene, and taking long walks with my dog.

I started troubleshooting by free-writing my thoughts about exercise into my journal and realized that motivation to exercise is a struggle for me. Then when you add the barriers of getting presentable, traveling, being dependent on someone else’s schedule and, if we’re being honest, interacting with other people, it becomes quite the sweaty mountain to climb.

Admitting that to myself and then getting honest about what I’m realistically willing to do and, beyond that, what I would ENJOY and look forward to have made all the difference when it comes to moving my body.

Am I a cut ballerina? By no means. But I’m more active than when I was struggling to make it to the studio or gym, and far less guilt-ridden. (I’m also considering joining Kara in Peloton Mania, but that’s neither here nor there.) And beyond the absence of guilt, there’s the presence of accomplishment.

That’s a big bonus of this half-assing: the sense of accomplishment.

You might worry that you won’t feel it because you’re not doing the biggest, fullest version or whatever it is you’re trying to incorporate, but you probably will. Being consistent with something is a great feeling… far better than the occasional rush and relief that comes with FINALLY checking that thing that you’ve been migrating from daily to-do list to to-do list, feeling guilty all the way.

I think we underestimate the personal shame we feel by having a goal that we’re constantly putting off but not entirely writing off, always keeping ourselves strung along and disappointed in ourselves. Sorry, but absolutely, 100%, not-half-assed NO.

We don’t need that.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.

And what’s the thread running through all these habits, intentions or resolutions we make for ourselves? That we’ll enjoy them or the fruits of them; that they’ll benefit us or others in some way.

By setting goals and not following through on them, we’re undermining ourselves by accidentally integrating the habit of feeling stress and shame about tasks uncompleted. Wouldn’t you rather trade that for middle-of-the-road satisfaction?

And try not to see it as a negative, either – having half-assed habits isn’t a bad thing or a shortcoming.

In fact, I think of it them that way in my mind as a kind of reminder not to take things so seriously, not just to be needlessly profane (although I am obviously not above that as well).

It’s knowing yourself and adapting. It’s taking on everyday challenges in your life in the way that’s right for you — which, by the way, can still mean that they’re challenging!

Some people thrive on having something to tackle. And the habits may not even be “half,” you may find your sweet spot is compromising things down just a notch — it’s just that 75%-ing it doesn’t quite have the same ring.

What goals or habits have you had a hard time incorporating that could use some dialing down in order for you to actually show up? I would genuinely love to help you troubleshoot!

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