The Habit Society

💡 Our illusions

To: Society Members

Good Morning!

It’s January 11th, and we bet it’s around that time our New Year’s Resolutions are starting to slip away… Well, we won’t let that happen. Let’s finally make it past February this year, in a sustainable and realistic way.



Our Illusions

Today, we’ll go through why our resolutions don’t make it past the opening credits, if the resolutions we’ve picked are even the right ones, and ways to adopt the right approach to habit formation. Hold on tight.

Gym Gyp

Why do we put so much weight on January 1st? Turns out, we’re wired to do this. It’s been shown that new beginnings, fresh starts, drives us to make changes. The beginning of the year isn’t the only time we feel this way. To a lesser extent, the beginnings of weeks or months show this effect too. You know the typical Saturday night thought, diet starts Monday.

Gyms really know how bad we are at sticking to resolutions. Case in point: Gyms never waste money on new machines for new January sign-ups since they certainly won’t be needing them by February. Their business model literally relies on you choosing The Queen’s Gambit over them.

The January Effect

Even the market experiences a form of new beginning optimism and consistently performs better than average around this time of year. Recent evidence suggests that this is partially due to the fact that we view the future more optimistically and lean towards riskier stocks, which inevitably drop down to their real value. Maybe we’re not all that different from stocks.

False-Hope Syndrome

On January 1st, we all share the illusion that our new kick of motivation will fuel a life-long exercise habit. Jason Riis, Harvard Business School professor, explains, “in the moment of exuberance, it’s easy to forget how much we won’t feel like exercising.” Psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call this the false-hope syndrome: “unrealistic expectations about our ability to change, followed closely by the dashing of our initially high aspirations.”


Why can’t we stick to them?

Sticking to Habits

Dr. Baumeister, PhD, argues that willpower is a finite resource. Meaning, we can only use our willpower so many times a day before we inevitably cave for the leftover fried dumplings. What does this mean? We will eventually stop going to the gym, eating well, or whatever our new habit may be, if they were solely established on willpower. Harary, author of Unlocking Greatness, says, “we can’t just point ourselves in a new direction in a moment of inspiration and expect our mind and bodies to follow through the end”. Once the novelty of the new year ends, our mental muscles will weaken, and our willpower will deplete.

The takeaway: January 1st isn’t a magical number that will turn you into a habit maniac. And neither was January 4th (when you were really going to start meditating). If your new habits are based on willpower or motivation, save yourself some time and effort, because they aren’t going to last. To make new habits last, you need new and improved methods. Keep reading and coming back every Monday to get ’em.

Insight from Unlocking Greatness by Charles Hararay

The Right Resolutions
Tell me what you want what you really really want

Now, think about what you really want? Do you want to exercise every morning before work, knowing that this is prime time to bond with your kids? Do you want to start intermittent fasting, knowing that Saturday night dinner with your friends will be foregone? We’re not saying you shouldn’t pick up these habits. But, if you know that the benefits of these habits won’t outweigh the costs, then you aren’t going to stick to them anyway. In other words, if you know that you are always going to choose dinner with your friends over intermittent fasting, then why lie to yourself in the first place? Pick your habits and engineer them accordingly to give yourself the best chance at sticking to them. Instead, commit to exercising in the evening once you put the kids to bed. Or, commit to intermittent fasting 6 days a week. This way, you will enjoy yourself on Saturday night while your fasting habit remains intact.



So, What Do I Do Instead?

What to do instead is literally why The Habit Society exists, so here are some important concepts from past newsletters:

Be realistic: A study found that those who set more modest exercise goals were much more likely to complete a 12-week exercise course. Read slow and steady wins the race for more details.

Replace, don’t eliminate: Our issue on what to do instead of quitting cold turkey explains the importance of incrementally replacing a bad habit with slightly better ones, until it’s entirely replaced.

Keep it exciting: We experience optimal motivation when tasks are just the right amount of difficulty based on our current abilities. Not too easy. Not too hard. Just right. Discover your ‘optimal zone’ for lasting motivation.

Link your identity: Learn how to be one with your habits and see how your identity (who you choose to be) will affect your processes (the actions you take), which will eventually affect your outcomes (results).

Help yourself: Humans are designed to do what’s easiest. So, the more friction there is to complete a behavior, the less likely you are to do it. Use the ability chain to make completing your habits easy.

Stack ’em: Take advantage of an already well-established habit by pairing it with a new habit.

Make a plan: Double your odds of success by using simple implementation intentions. Writing down when and where you will perform a habit has been scientifically proven to increase your odds of actually doing it.

Avoid downward spirals: The first mistake isn’t the one that reverses all of your results. It goes downhill once you let one mistake change your habits. Learn how to avoid downward spirals after one mistake.



Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.

– Lord Henry



Thanks to everyone who sent in their local businesses. Take a look at a few:
Rach fiit: She started her own personal training business when gyms had to close in March and she temporarily lost her job as a group fitness instructor. She runs group classes & personal training over zoom! You can also check out her Instagram @rachfiit for everything health and wellness, which is definitely on all our minds for 2021.
Shrine On: They make parody celebrity prayer candles. Just click the link, it’s a guaranteed smile.
Sleep Envie: They mean it when they say, “your bed is more than a mattress”. Take their quiz to find which mattress is perfect for you.
You guys are good



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