I’m a runner, and I see it every year: On January 1, there are suddenly tons of people out on my usual running route. The New Year’s Resolutioners. I’m always rooting for them, but their numbers quickly begin to dwindle. By mid-February, it’s back to just me and the regulars I see year after year.
The studies about New Year’s resolutions bear that out. According to research from workout app Strava, January 17 is when most folks abandon their good intentions for the new year and slip back into old habits. Yikes.
Obviously, both marketers selling resolution-related products or services and the individuals themselves are doing something wrong here. So I wondered, is there a way to use storytelling to make New Year’s resolutions stick?
Storytelling can help individuals keep with those 2021 resolutions well into the year—to the benefit of both people and brands. Here are tips businesses and individuals can use to make resolutions last to 2022 and beyond.
Keep It Positive
2020 was rough, and frankly, anyone who wore real pants more than 45 days this year deserves a darn medal. So 2021 is not the year to hit people hard with the tough love resolutions messaging. Now is a time to lift people up, not tear them down.
And regardless of the vibe of the previous year, psychology shows that negative self-talk is not the way to get a resolution to stick.
Whether you’re the brand doing the selling or the person doing the work, keep the story around resolutions positive. Encourage baby steps, and reward incremental progress. Rome was not built in a day, and it also wasn’t built in a pandemic. Everyone deserves a break in 2021. One brick at a time, my friends.
Ah, the buddy system. We learned it in grade school to keep ourselves from getting lost on field trips, and it turns out it has applications in adult life, too!
Studies show that when we tell others about our resolutions and create accountability around our goals with friends and family, we’re more likely to stick to them. So we’re more successful when we share our resolution story with others.
If you’re a person looking to adopt a workout routine, team up with a friend and get together a couple of times a week for a Zoom yoga class.
If you run a business, try to build accountability into your offerings. A gym might offer a discount for friends or family members who sign up together. An app that enables meal tracking might incorporate a feature where users can share their progress with friends in-app.
Acknowledge That Real Change Takes Time
Many of the stories we’ve historically seen from brands around resolutions have demonstrated remarkable change in a short period. We all know those weight-loss ads where people don old pants that are now huge, pulling out the waistband to show that they lost a whopping 30 pounds in just 30 days.
We’ve also all seen the research on how diets like that just don’t work, and the reason is that real change doesn’t happen that quickly.
So instead of buying into this overnight success story, embrace the one day at a time mantra. Brands should set more realistic expectations and encourage folks by acknowledging that even a tiny step in the right direction is a big deal.
And individuals should do the same for themselves. You don’t have to give up cigarettes and lose 15 pounds and finish your master’s degree all in the first half of 2021. Maybe just cut back on cigarettes for the first month of the year. And celebrate any progress you do make! Positive change of any kind, in any amount, is always better than nothing.
Make It a Habit
Most New Year’s resolution adopters drop off halfway through January because their new behavior hasn’t become a habit yet. The amount of time it takes for a new action to become a habit varies, but researchers have found the average time to be 66 days.
So brands can do themselves a favor by creating messaging and offerings that encourage folks to get to the 66-day mark with their product or service.
From a storytelling perspective, that again circles back to the idea of being kind and encouraging resolutioners to be patient with themselves as they get used to this lifestyle shift.
Take the meditation app Headspace as an example. Headspace tracks users' run streaks and sends notifications to celebrate when they’ve meditated a certain number of days in a row. Messaging like that encourages users to keep coming back day after day to get that little reward.
When it comes to packaging your offering, keep the 66-day time frame in mind. If you’re selling a health-focused app, make the introductory offer for a three-month, rather than one-month, subscription period. This approach gives users the appropriate amount of time to fully integrate the new habit into their life before they come up for renewal.
When it comes to getting New Year’s resolutions to stick, the most compelling stories brands and individuals can tell center around kindness and forgiveness. You might not get it the first time, but it’s always better to get back on the horse than to simply abandon your goals on January 17.
If you are one of those people or businesses to write a positive, encouraging narrative around resolutions—one that embraces an “if at first you don’t succeed” mentality and builds accountability in a community—you’re much more likely to see movement toward achieving goals.