As the year draws to a close, you are probably drawing up a list of resolutions for the following year. In the past, smoking cessation, weight loss, and picking up a new skill ranked as the top resolutions made by Australians.

If you have made New Year’s resolutions in the past, only to fail later on, know that you are not alone. In fact, a study released by the Statistic Brain Research Institute indicates that only 8 percent of people who made resolutions for the New Year managed to follow through with their promise to themselves and succeed.

But what does it really take to make your New Year resolutions stick and make your goal of changing habits bring about positivity in your life?

Conventional wisdom states that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, this idea has been debunked. According to Phillippa Lally of the University College of London, it can take somewhere between 18 and 254 days to successfully create a new habit.

Of course, anything can happen within that time frame—you might get distracted or even lose hope. The key to success may lie in the Golden Rule of Habit Change which Charles Duhigg outlined in his book entitled “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”

What exactly is this Golden Rule of Habit Change?

According to Duhigg, a habit can be broken down into five components: cue, routine, reward craving and belief.

A cue is a signal for you to do something that has become a habit. A routine, on the other hand, refers to the action or actions that you perform automatically. The reward is the result of the action or actions. Craving refers to the urge to satisfy a yearning. Finally, belief refers to the acceptance of a claim, whether that is true or not.

Duhigg posits that in order to break free from a bad habit or create a good one, your attention should be focused on your routine and on retaining the other elements, especially the cue and the reward. You can try this, whatever your resolutions for the New Year may be. But how do you apply this in real life?

Identify habits you want to change

The first thing that you need to do is to identify the habit that you wish to change. After that, you need to determine what your old cue and rewards were for the old habit.

For example, if you are planning to eat healthier in the new year, you can draw your habit loop like this:

Your cue would be hunger and your old habit would be to eat junk or fast food. Your reward will be satiation and your craving would be the taste of these foods. As for your belief, this could be any mindset that holds you back from eating healthier fare.

Now, if you want to create the habit of healthy eating, you need to retain your cue and reward. Your craving will be replaced with a desire to look and feel healthy while your belief should be giving this change the opportunity to work.

If you need some help or support for making positive changes in your life, search our national directory of counsellors and psychotherapists at