New Year’s resolutions aren’t working, but new habits are.

Every year, roughly half of American adults create New Year’s resolutions, yet the failure rate of resolutions is a shocking 80% before the year is even half over. Regardless of how you look at the data of success and failure rates of New Year’s resolutions, one thing is very clear: Resolutions simply don’t work—at least not in the way most people approach the idea of creating and following through with them.

You can’t help but feel a sense of motivation as a new year approaches, and using this motivation to strive for a healthier lifestyle is fantastic. But there’s a lot more to succeeding with your intentions than simply saying or writing down what you want.

If you really want to make this New Year one for the books, you need to understand why New Year’s resolutions are flawed and what to do instead.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

New Year’s resolutions are flawed from the start because the average person focuses on what end result they desire rather than considering what steps they need to take in order to get there.

A New Year’s resolution will fail for a number of reasons including:

1. A lack of clarity of what you want to achieve

Generic goals are destined to fail. A popular resolution is, “I want to lose weight,” but this is a very vague goal. Exactly how much weight do you want to lose? How will you know when you achieve this goal?

2. A lack of desire for what you think you want

It’s one thing to know what’s good for you, but it’s another to actually want to change bad habits. For example, you know you should quit smoking, but unless you truly desire to quit, making a New Year’s resolution won’t help you.

3. A lack of focus on one specific goal

Again, it’s really easy to know what positive changes you should make in your life, but that doesn’t mean you need to try and change everything at once. Trying to juggle a bunch of different New Year’s resolutions simply isn’t efficient and often leads to the failure of them all.

4. Unrealistic expectations for quick progress

Losing weight, quitting smoking, saving money, and a number of popular resolutions take a lot of time to achieve. Having unrealistic expectations in terms of how fast you can make progress can cause failure, even when you very well might be making progress.

Rather than focusing on completing poorly planned New Year’s resolutions, focus more on creating new habits with smart goal-setting practices.

Goal-setting is the key to adopting new habits.

In order to succeed, you need to focus on creating an achievable goal that you truly desire and adopting new habits that will help you achieve said goal.

A time-tested and proven goal-setting method is the S.M.A.R.T concept. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Your goal needs to be ultra-specific, have measurable progress, be achievable within your limits, relevant to your life, and trackable. Reviewing the basics of S.M.A.R.T goal-setting will help you turn a resolution into a true goal.

Once you have your goal set, you can determine what new habits you’ll need to adopt in order to succeed. Creating these habits is accomplished in three steps:

Step 1 – Pick out a small action.

Your new action will be your new habit, so you want it to be small and specific. For example, rather than saying you want to make a habit of taking better care of your teeth, you can say, “I will brush my teeth once in the morning and once before bed.”

Step 2 – Attach your new action to an old habit.

Once you have your new action, you want to attach it to an old habit in order to trigger your new response. For example, as soon as you walk into the bathroom in the morning, brush your teeth before you do anything else. Or, if you’re struggling with remembering to brush your teeth before bed, try to do this action right before you put on your pajamas.

Step 3 – Start off as easy as possible.

The trick to making your new action turn into a new habit is to make the first week extremely easy. For brushing or flossing habits, you might create a timed reminder on your phone or leave a note on the mirror. Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste easily accessible on your sink, so you will look at it whenever you’re in the bathroom.

It takes about a week before you’ll be triggered to perform the new action without needing the old habit to prompt you. From there, continue your new action for two to three months, and it will turn into a normal habit.

Make your oral health a priority in the New Year.

Almost every adult has some health-related goal or habit they’d like to accomplish, such as eating a healthier diet or losing weight. But one vital component to overall health is often forgotten about: oral health.

Your oral health is strongly linked to overall health, and there are thousands of studies that support strong relationships between gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, and even arthritis. Even chronic tooth issues, like decay, can cause inflammation throughout the body and even allow life-threatening bacteria into your bloodstream.

Many adults skip on maintaining six-month checkups and tend to avoid going to the dentist for as long as possible, often only giving in after experiencing a toothache they simply can’t ignore. Studies also show that many adults only brush once a day and floss very irregularly. By turning your focus toward banishing bad dental care habits and putting serious effort toward creating new ones, you’ll ensure that your teeth and smile stay as healthy as possible.

Start your new year with a trip to the dentist.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in the last six months, the new year is the perfect time to schedule an appointment at Acorn Dental.

A full-mouth exam and consultation with Dr. Van Istendal will help you get started on the right foot when it comes to improving your oral health. Not only can Dr. Van Istendal assist in fixing existing tooth concerns, but he can also help you get the smile you’ve always wanted through a number of different advanced cosmetic dentistry services.

Make this new year one of personal growth and improved confidence, starting with one of your most important features: your smile.