6 Mental Hacks to Make Any Good Behavior a Lasting Habit

What's your success rate with New Year's resolutions?

How many New Year’s resolutions have you actually kept? And how many have you given up on? Let’s face it, most of us tend to be quitters when it comes to resolutions. Even with the best of intentions, most people give up on our resolutions within just a few short weeks, or even days, after New Year’s Day.1

That’s why the second Friday of January is National Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day!2 In fact, no matter what your resolutions are – or what your success rate has been in the past – this year, you can do better. This time around it can be easier to make your resolutions really stick.
How? With some surprisingly simply mental tricks based on neuroscience.

These brain hacks take advantage of how our minds work. They can make it easier for us to change our habits. And they could be the key to keeping those resolutions you truly care about achieving.


Trick: Add a new, small change to a current routine.

Why it works?

Habit stacking works because it links small changes to existing habits and ingrained routines. It lets us fold some new behavior into the things we're already doing. That makes it easy to keep up the new behavior without feeling the stress of making some big change.1

Example: “Stack” a new habit of donating to a charity or contributing extra to a savings account when you’re paying your monthly bills.


Trick: “See” your future self or the future life you want. Imagine it routinely and in detail.

Why it works?

Visualizations aren't just a passing wish or hope. They're detailed, routine visions of some future we want. As we visualize our future selves, our brains get into the "future self" mindset. We start to unconsciously believe we have the future we want, and we can get much better at creating it.2

Example: Visualize what your life will be like in 12 months if you stick to your most recent resolution. What will that accomplishment fee like? What will it mean for you? Hold onto this picture and revisit it. This can be a powerful reminder of why you chose your resolution and what success could feel like.


Trick: Turn your resolutions into a game with built-in rewards if you “win” or achieve certain milestones.

Why it works?

Games are fun! They make our resolutions more tangible, they let us keep score, and they give us a clear path forward. Plus, games can motivate us with healthy competition and reward us for our "wins." Those rewards give us a dopamine rush that can keep us coming back for more.3 That combination of factors can make gamification a really powerful way to stay on track with our resolutions.4

Example: Download an app that gamifies your goals. If you want to get in better shape, for instance, use a step counter or fitness tracking app.


Trick: Focus on one behavior (a “keystone” habit) that can create a major ripple effect of positive change in your life.

Why it works?

Some habits can inspire bigger changes in our lives because they make us feel better or they improve our productivity. That can create a flywheel effect that primes us to want to make other positive changes and keep those good feelings flowing.5

Example: Getting more sleep and exercising regularly are keystone habits that can trigger other good behaviors, like eating healthy or trying to quit “bad” habits like smoking.


Trick: Break down your resolution into the smallest possible step and start there. Add a small step only after you’ve been successful with a previous small step, continuing until you achieve your goal.

Why it works?

The idea here is to make it as easy as humanly possible to do something. With the minimum viable effort strategy, we eliminate as many barriers a possible by breaking the resolution down into the tiniest increments we can. And we start there.6

Example: Focus on one areas of your finances and, again, start small. It could be as simple as automating certain contributions or checking certain account balances on a more regular basis. Start small to go far.


Trick: Join a group that practices the new behavior or shares the new habit you want to adopt.

Why it works?

Groups - even just one other person - can motivate us and create a sense of accountability. With groups, we can also get healthy competition and the push we need to stay on track with a resolution or new change.

Example: If getting in shape is part of your resolutions, start or join a neighborhood group for walking or bicycle riding. You could also hire a personal trainer as a coach.


Sticking to our resolutions can seem like a major effort. Whether we’re trying to pick up a new habit or drop an old one, changing our behaviors can feel challenging. And that’s not because we don’t have the willpower to make a change. And it’s not because we aren’t serious about our goals.

A lot of the time we fail ourselves in our outlook or our approach. We can think about our goals in all-or-nothing terms and get overwhelmed trying to accomplish everything at once.8

Or we may not have a good plan of attack. We could be missing the right strategy for making a change, or we may not have the right system for keeping ourselves motivated.8
But guess what? We have unlimited chances to get it right, and it’s never to late to try something new.

The truth is, keeping a resolution or making a change is kind of like launching a rocket. It takes energy to get off the ground and get things going. But once launched, that rocket – or those new habits – can pretty much cruise. It doesn’t take much effort to keep them going.

And with the right strategies and support we can all successfully launch a new habit we set our sights on.

follow us


2- https://nationaltoday.com/ditch-new-years-resolution-day/

3- https://www.medium.com/swlh/the-power-of-habit-stacking-68115384ad6e

4- https://www.forbes.com/sites/lidijaglobokar/2020/03/05/the-power-of-visualization-and-how-to-use-it/?sh=256600b96497


6- https://www.bitcatcha.com/blog/gamify-website-increase-engagement/


8- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-adaptive-mind/201909/9-steps-create-changes-that-will-last

Investment Advisory Services offered through Trek Financial LLC., an (SEC) Registered Investment Advisor.

Information presented is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered specific investment advice, does not take into consideration your specific situation, and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any securities or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and are not guaranteed, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. For specific tax advice on any strategy, consult with a qualified tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein.