New year’s resolutions for solopreneurs: Why a good habit is hard to break

7 min read
Matthew Pattinson

Here we are in 2019: a fresh chance to dust off your new year’s resolutions, and kick your side hustle up a gear.

For many of us, however, the promise of the new year doesn’t last long: the best of intentions quickly fall by the wayside. As side hustlers and solopreneurs, aren’t we already battling tooth and nail to get our staggeringly long to-do lists into shape?

There must be a better way to approach our resolutions for the new year.

It all comes down to one little word: habit.

Where’s your resolve?

Let’s be clear: resolutions are hard to keep.

According to a recent YouGov poll, just one in five of us planned to make a resolution heading into 2019, and only about a quarter of resolutions made in 2018 were kept.

That’s a pretty low success rate, by any measure.

It’s not as though people are committing to exotic things. Most new year’s resolutions are exactly what you might expect: to eat more healthily, to exercise more, and to save money.

The kind of goals most people can apply to their everyday life.

Younger Brits are most likely to be taking on a challenge for the coming year

So resolutions are hard to keep, fewer people are making resolutions, and - it turns out - older folk are not inclined to commit to any resolutions whatsoever.

But, as a solopreneur, having business resolutions that you strive to achieve is surely a good thing?

How can we better approach resolutions to maximise side hustle success in 2019?

The incredible power of habit

The first thing to notice is that most of the resolutions people make are an attempt to break bad habits and replace them with better ones: exercise more (“I am not exercising enough”), eating healthily (“I snack on less than wholesome food”), and save money (“I spend on things I don’t need”).

But, as just about everyone knows, bad habits are fiendishly hard to break. In spite of every last ounce of willpower, it is so easy to crumble: to eat that chocolate bar you said you wouldn’t, to skip the run you said you would take, not to send out the marketing email to your side hustle list at the end of an already long day.

Fear not: you are in good company.

As Charles Duhigg, author of the best-selling The Power of Habit, explains: there is no secret formula for breaking bad habits; but with the right approach and diagnosis, it is possible to make sustainable change.

For Duhigg, it comes down to analysis. He advises us to identify the reward we are seeking to obtain through the habit: why do we eat the chocolate bar? What steps can we take to switch out one behaviour for a more healthy one?

“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can't extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it”, says Duhigg.

So think how this applies to your daily routine: when you’re tempted by the chocolate bar, grab your running shoes and go for a jog instead. It will give you the feeling of well-being you were looking to prise out of the sugary treat.

Or, when you’re fighting the temptation to check your social media feeds, switch off your applications. In their place, open up a document and, in it, draft that start-of-year communication to your email list. You will experience the same sense of satisfaction you were hoping to find in your social media feed.

Except in both scenarios—running round the block, drafting the communication—you have accomplished an activity that moves you and your side hustle forward in a positive way.

Wrestling With Willpower?

New year’s resolutions for solopreneurs: Why a good habit is hard to break

Oftentimes, people view willpower as a character trait: something we tend to be good or (more normally) bad at.

The reality, however, is that nobody is great at flexing willpower for any great length of time.

Willpower requires restraint, and exercising restraint is tiring. The more depleted our psychological resources, the more likely we are to succumb to the forbidden fruit.

The better approach is to construct our home and work environments to encourage healthy behaviours.

  • Reduce the amount of sugary stuff in your kitchen cabinets. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.
  • Leave your exercise gear somewhere easy to slip on. Don’t give yourself the chance to find last-minute excuses.
  • When working on your computer, keep the number of irrelevant open tabs to the absolute minimum. Eliminate the temptation to go down the rabbit hole of Facebook or Twitter.

Exercising restraint is all well and good. But better to create a world where these temptations aren’t staring you in the face in the first place.

Blueprinting Your Future

You now have a plan for breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones, but a question remains: what exactly is it you are trying to achieve?

Are you seeking:

  • To reach a certain number of clients for your business?
  • To achieve a particular level of fitness?
  • To develop your personal relationships in a specific way?

List ten or so areas that are important to your personal and professional life, and set a meaningful goal for each. Refer to these goals at the start of every day, and measure every action against whether or not it is advancing one or more of your goals.

Some things to keep in mind:

Be Yourself

By adopting new habits and unlocking new possibilities, you needn’t become a different person. Instead, you are becoming a better version of yourself.

As hedge fund guru Ray Dalio remarked, “The happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it”.

Be Inspired

Look for sources of inspiration wherever you go. Listen avidly, read widely, and stay receptive to good advice.

Remember, it won’t always be a bed of roses. At times your journey will feel unpleasant, even painful. Hang in there.

“Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever”, Bear Grylls once said. “You only get one chance at life, and you have to grab it boldy”.

Adopt A Growth Mindset

To keep growing, always be asking questions and pushing boundaries. The most successful among us know this only too well.

“I think much of my success has come from taking nothing for granted and questioning absolutely everything”, businesswoman and Dragon Den’s star Deborah Meaden remarked.

Age Is On Your Side

It may seem surprising, but the majority of solopreneurs are not the spring chickens the media like to suggest. Indeed, according to 2018 research carried out by GoDaddy and Cebr, almost 60 percent of side hustlers are over 40. Embrace your middle age (isn’t 40 the new 20, anyway?), and go bold.

Stay Ahead

If none of this is sufficient to steady your solopreneur nerves, consider this: the days of traditional 9-5 employment may be nearing their end.

Just think of the speed at which automation is affecting the workplace and putting traditional jobs out of commission left, right and centre.

Studies suggest that a sizeable chunk of the working population will be self-employed by the end of the next decade.

You might just be on the right side of history.

Embrace The Opportunity

So let 2019 be the year in which you swap out bad habits for good ones, and set goals that move you and your solo venture forward in a sustainable way. Use the wide array of digital tools available, from website builders to email marketing programs, to get the word out about what you’re up to and make things easy on yourself.

Finally, remember you’re not alone: not only are more and more people embracing the solopreneur life, but half the world is now online. That’s a lot of potential people to connect with, and help grow your solo venture.

Could there be a better time to break off the shackles of yesterday and set your new improved self free?