Six Tips to Hold Yourself Accountable for Keeping Your Resolutions.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six tips to hold yourself accountable for keeping your resolutions.

One thing I’ve discovered from doing my happiness project is – no surprise – it’s easy to make a resolution, but it’s not always easy to keep a resolution.

I’m fascinated by the question: what allows people to keep resolutions? Why does one couch potato suddenly decide to start going to the gym, and then goes regularly for years, while another similar couch potato just can’t stick with a program? Why does my sister keep resolving to learn to cook, but never follows up? Why can’t I make myself floss regularly? And yet I’ve been able to keep my one-sentence journal.

The first step is to make a concrete, well-directed resolution. Samuel Johnson wrote a prayer that includes the line, “O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.” At first, this puzzled me. I understood praying for the strength to keep resolutions, but why make the special request to be able to “resolve aright”? Now I understand that resolving aright is very important. (See #1 below.)

The second step is to hold yourself accountable. This is enormously important. The constant review of resolutions, and the knowledge that you are being held accountable for sticking to them, makes a huge difference.

I found this myself, doing my own happiness project, and I know that it’s true for other people. Last night, I was talking to some of the leaders of happiness-project groups around the country, and they all agreed that accountability was essential — this point was stressed particularly by the leader of the Washington, DC group, the indefatigably positive Dani.

So how do you hold yourself accountable? Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

1.Frame your resolution in concrete actions. If you resolve to “Get more joy out of life” or “Embrace the present,” it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. It’s easier to be answerable for a specific action like “Spend at least one hour a week hiking” or “Sit in a chair for fifteen minutes every day, with no distractions.”

2.Keep a chart. Having made a resolution, you have to check yourself in some way. I print out a new copy of my Resolutions Chart each month and carry it around with me. At least once each day, I review and score my resolutions. (See below if you’d like to take a look at my chart.)

3.Use the Happiness Project Toolbox. If you want to keep your Resolutions Chart online, use the Toolbox – the Resolutions Tool and the Group Resolutions Tool are two very helpful tools. While you’re there, you can also add things to your Inspiration Board, share ideas to the Happiness Hacks – and look to see what other people are doing!

4.Join a group. Even more useful than keep a chart is meeting with real live people who will press you to keep your resolutions. Mutual accountability is extraordinarily effective, as demonstrated by groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. Each leader of a happiness-project group agreed that it as a key motivator for keeping resolutions. That’s why I think that launching or joining a happiness-project group is a great way to boost happiness. You have the happiness of meeting with friends, whether new or old, plus the happiness of keeping your resolutions. If you want a starter kit for launching your own happiness-project group, click here.

5.Tell people what you’re doing. At the very least, tell your family about the resolutions that you’re trying to keep. Studies showed that people trying to make life changes, such as losing weight, were more likely to succeed if they told their families what they were doing.

6.Consider combining these strategies. Resolve with a friend to use the Happiness Project Toolbox. Start a group to discuss resolutions. Use the Group Resolutions Tool to challenge friends, colleagues, relative to keep a resolution with you. (It occurs to me that I’m pushing the Happiness Project Toolbox hard here, but the thing is, I designed it to help people keep their resolutions, so it really is supposed to help.)

Here are more tips on sticking to your resolutions, if you’re interested.

I’ve had great success with dozens of my resolutions, and yet I still don’t floss regularly. Any advice on another strategy to try?

* Speaking of the DC Happiness Project Group, here’s an account by one of its members of why he joined and how it has helped him keep his resolution (to eat better — a resolution familiar to many of us!)

* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://www.mybodytutor.com/ Adam Gilbert

    Gretchen,

    Awesome post!

    I must say this post hit home because that’s exactly why I created MyBodyTutor.com. Everyone wants to be healthy and fit but not everyone is.

    We all know what to do for the most part. It’s just that we’re not doing it!

    It’s so easy to make excuses and even easier to rationalize those excuses. By providing daily and personal accountability it makes a world of difference.

    Studies show that when people are about to do something they know they shouldn’t do and are forced to look at themselves in the mirror they hold themselves back. I believe having a 24/7 ‘mirror’ so to speak makes all the difference.

    We’re incredibly good at rationalizing. Anytime we face some sort of discomfort, we begin to rationalize so we don’t have to deal with the discomfort anymore. However, it’s this discomfort that leads to breakthroughs and growth.

    For your resolution of flossing try hard to make it habit. One of the tips I suggest for clients who have a night time sweet tooth is to floss, and brush their teeth immediately after dinner.

    This way, it prevents cravings and your mouth will also feel so good you won’t want to ruin it by eating junk or say, Tasti-d-lite (I know something you worked hard to stop eating).

    By flossing and brushing your teeth it literally can wipe away your cravings. So maybe if you look at flossing as a way to help your other resolutions it’ll be easier.

    Another rule you might want to try is that you must floss before you clean the kitchen or dishes, etc. No exceptions (except when you’re not home, of course).

    Like any of these resolutions worth doing – if you focus on how it’ll make you feel when you’re done and all the benefits it also makes it easier.

    Many times we have to do things we really don’t feel like doing to get to where we really want to be. And it’s always worth it in the end!

    Hope that helps!

  • http://mythehappinessproject.blogspot.com/ Wende Morgaine

    re: flossing regularly.
    I floss every time I brush my teeth. I wouldn’t think of brushing my teeth without it. grosses me out. but I used to NEVER floss.
    1) Use GLIDE brand floss. Other floss hurts.
    2) Take Martha Beck’s advice. Resolve to do one tiny step toward your goal for only four days (read about how to do this here: http://marthabeck.com/blog/?p=43).

    Keep trying. You’ll get there. :)

  • http://positivelypresent.com Positively Present

    Great post, Gretchen! These are great tips and I’m so glad you shared them here today. Thank you for mentioning me too! :) It feels great to see the topic of accountability addressed here and I think the rest of the DC Happiness Project group will find these tips very useful. Thanks!

  • http://www.newwealthparadigm.com/ Doug/ newwealthparadigm.com

    Gretchen:

    Thanks for the post. Good practical ideas.

    What often makes the difference though goes back to what you first stated in the quote from Samuel Johnson, “Grant me to resolve aright.” To hold to our resolutions we need to start with heart-felt critical goal that we truly believe will change our lives for the better. We need to take some time to really resolve what it is we want. When we have that emotional resolution as well as mental we are much more likely to stick with it. Then your other steps will help keep us on course.

    Thanks for your input.

    Doug

  • Sassy

    Re the Flossing: get Roto-points. I hated flossing too; now I floss once in awhile but I use the roto-points a couple of times a day — quick, easy, and you can hold a book in one hand while you do it. Since I started using them, my dentist actually compliments me on what great shape the gums are in and does not lecture me about flossing. A win all the way around.

  • http://www.gooseberried.com/ Gooseberried

    Thanks for the tips!

    A friend once told me that in order to get herself flossing regularly, she decided to put a container of floss in an area that she would see often. Usually people store their floss in what? The vanity? So, it’s easy to forget about. That same friend of mine is a writer and so she told that since the floss was at her desk, it was easy to look at it during her brainstorming sessions and decide to floss while doing it. We all need a break from looking at the computer sometimes. Might as well get one in with some floss, eh? :)

  • http://hpshealthylifestyle.blogspot.com/ HP van Duuren

    I don’t know if ‘Accountability’ is something that really makes me Happy, I do however appriciate when I am being Supported.

    Also I don’t think that Resolutions ‘Written in Stone’ usually make me that Happy also. It feels somewhat the same way as Planning to tight, It feels that I can easily ‘Paint myself Stuck’ that way.

    Strangely enough I don’t think that this means that I don’t have any discipline, although you probably can better call it ‘Devotion’. (as I recently learned, a
    distinction Singer Pavarotti made)

    For example I like excersising and excersise every day,
    (BTW on my Healthy Lifestyle Blogspot, I have a ‘Video’ titled: “Jogging on Gran Canaria” with stunning photo’s of the up comming – early morning – Sun that can Inspire people to create the Momentum for early moring Jogging.) When you start small and build it up you can realtively easy build momentum and than it isn’t hard to keep on doing it anymore.

    Possibly a similar strategy can be used
    for keeping resolutions?

    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,
    HP

    (P.S. Great New Web Design!)

  • livinmybestlife

    Great timing for me on this post Gretchen. I’ve recently set a writing goal for myself after years of being undisciplined in that department. One of the first things I did was to design a chart (the idea was inspired by your charts)to make myself record each day whether or not I met my goal. This visual record will be helpful in getting me to face facts if I start to falter. My biggest tendency with goals is to let them just slip away – evaporate. When there isn’t a visual record of my desires and me dropping the ball on them it’s easier to pretend it never happened.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful insights and for sharing them with all of us.

  • http://somewisdomtoknowthedifference.blogspot.com/ Jessica

    Interesting. The resolution I can’t seem to keep is washing my face at night. I prefer to wash it in the morning in the shower, but everything I read about taking care of your skin tells me to wash it at night. Yet I won’t do it. I put it on my resolutions chart and after a month had only done it twice. Sad. I realized I needed to follow your advice and Identify the Problem. Why do I hate doing it at night? It’s because I don’t like how the water feels as it tends to run down my arms and onto my elbows. This sounds very silly even as I type it, yet it really was the problem. I see now that I have two options – figure out a better way to wash my face to avoid the trickle-down feeling I hate, or decide this isn’t the best resolution for me and just feel satisfied with washing it in the mornings only. I think your own advice is best, though: figure out WHY you either forget to or choose not to floss. Then you can solve whatever you think the problem may be. Thanks for making me pause to think about my own resolutions this afternoon. :-)

    • Hayley

      I like to use make-up removing wipes. Get the kind you don’t have to rinse off afterwards. They are great. You can clean your face, but don’t get water everywhere.

      • http://somewisdomtoknowthedifference.blogspot.com/ Jessica

        I didn’t know there was a kind I wouldn’t have to rinse off afterward. Thanks!

    • http://www.karin-carter.com/ Karin

      Hi, Jessica! Does the water run down your arms when you reach for your towel? Try putting your towel on the sink or even hold it between your knees while you wash your face. When you reach for it, the water will run towards your hands!

    • D

      Or just use moist facial cleansing wipes at night? It should do the same job as washing without the wet elbows!

  • martine tabilio

    Flossing: I put my floss as a visual cue on my desk and floss – alone -at said desk.

  • http://www.davidturnbull.com/ David Turnbull

    I’ve been in a mastermind with a couple of friends for the past 9 months and that’s been helping me keep on track. I don’t want to go to one of our meetings and say I’ve got nothing done, so I make sure I get some stuff done. But there’s no pressure either, cause we’re just friends from school. It’s a good balance between accountability and relaxedness. :)

  • thehealthylibrarian

    Checklists & charts don’t work for me. Too much upkeep & then I forget to do it for a few days–and then I just give up.

    This year I followed a new plan–based on science.

    1. Keep the number down–the brain goes into overload & balks if it has too much to keep track of. I kept it down to three.

    2. Write it down. It activates the reticular activating system. It acts like a filter, sorting the important urgent stuff you need to pay attention to, from the non-essentials.

    I had 3 resolutions in January–and 9 months later, I’m mostly on track.

    1. Ditching the sugar/fat foods.
    2. Ditching the negative talk.
    3. Listening better.

    New Year’s Resolutions. The Power of Three Meets the Power of Writing It Down

    http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2009/01/resolutions.html

  • Barbara

    Good tips, Gretchen

    I too was having trouble making flossing a habit, but then I realized I ought to combine it with something else, like watching television — or even reading a very long blog entry. This works for anything that’s a purely mechanical activity.

  • http://twitter.com/mellen22 Mary Ellen Petrich

    I didn’t floss because I have really tight spaces between all my teeth and I didn’t like the way normal floss felt. I thought about trying several different kinds of floss, but balked because of the cost. Then I thought, dental health is worth a lot more than $20 worth of floss. Just buy it–try it. So, I did, and I started using a different kind of floss.

    But even with a better type of floss, I didn’t floss every day. It just so happens, that about that time I married someone who does floss every day. And I asked him to bring me a piece of floss when he flosses. And he does. And now that I floss every night, it’s actually really hard not to. My mouth starts tasting really gamey if I don’t.

    It may not seem like the ideal solution, but the moral of the story is: change your environment so that you are more likely to floss. Hang out with people who floss, or keep floss in your line of sight, or start eating something everyday (like popcorn, or tough steak) that makes you want to floss just to get the bits out.

    Or…. maybe you weren’t meant to floss. Do you have perfect dental health despite bad habits? Maybe you don’t need to floss.

  • http://www.notdeadyetstudios.com/ Amy Crook

    These are great! I do think that having buddies helps a lot for resolutions, and/or tracking things.

    What worked with me for flossing was to brush my teeth, get out the little piece of floss, and then go do some of my no-hands night stuff (like reading a blog post I’d saved for the end of the day, watching the end of a tv show on my DVR, etc) while I flossed. I also (against all Habits teaching) worked myself up to it — at first it had to be every other day, then I made myself go at least two days before I had ‘permission’ to slack it off, and now I’m up to 4 or 5 days straight before I’m allowed a night off. The dentist has definitely noticed the improvement!

  • Amy

    I found this book indispensable for becoming more productive: “How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing” by Paul J. Silvia. While his focus is academic writing, it can also be applied to any artistic endeavor you wish to do more of. One thing he says that really hit home is you have to *schedule* time to write, not just look around for time in your schedule to squeeze in some writing. Make a schedule and stick to it — don’t let anyone intrude on that time. It’s important.

    ANYway. Definitely check it out — very useful, practical information in this book.

  • Regular Flosser

    Regarding the flossing, I accidentally stumbled upon my solution by buying floss at one of those bulk stores that sells things only in multiples of 10 or greater. So, I found myself with 10 small containers of floss, and I distributed them wherever I could. I put them in purses, on my desk, on the table I use for my real desk, in multiple drawers, basically anywhere I keep useful things. So now, I’m never at a loss when I get that “Ew, something is stuck in my teeth” feeling. Also, I let myself floss whenever. I used to think that it would be useless to floss midday, because the point was to floss after dinner so that your teeth stay relatively clean while you sleep. But then, my dentist mentioned in passing that he flosses around lunch time, and I realized that the time of day is not as important as just being regular about it.

    Also, thanks for writing this blog! I’ve found it incredibly empowering to realize that my happiness is something I can actively think about, as opposed to a vague and nebulous concept to aspire to.

  • Katie

    I relatively recently established a regular flossing habit. I used an app on my iPhone called GoalKeep that let me put a satisfying checkmark on a calendar. If I missed a day, the count would go back to zero. So, even if I was up late working, I didn’t want to mess that up, and I would floss before bed.

    Oh, and regarding Glide floss. I used to use it, too, because other stuff would shred near my crown sometimes. My new dental hygienist called it “Glide past plaque” (as in, it doesn’t get everything) and recommended Johnson & Johnson Mint Waxed. She’s not sure why, but that it just works. I must say, I have to agree with her. Good luck!

  • http://whynotstartnow.wordpress.com/ Patty – Why Not Start Now?

    Concrete is good. That really works for me. I also like what HP said about support vs. accountability. As for charts and lists and whatnot, that’s a bit too structured for my taste. Makes it seem like another task on my to do list. So I need to find ways to make it fun (for me). And I also have to know that the change I’m making is linked to deeply important values and personal meaning. Finally, I need to understand the story I’m going to tell myself to try to get out of doing it (like: I don’t need to floss because I have good teeth). By the way, I was a non-flosser for years but now do so every day because I finally realized the story and what a crock it was!

  • http://www.shelleyshouse.blogspot.com/ Shelley

    Get the little plastic thingies that hold the floss tight for you; this saves the pain of cutting off your finger tips with regular floss. Flossing is part of my getting ready for bed routine. I do it while sitting on the loo. Perhaps too much info?! However, part of what initially put me off was that it was yet another step in an already long list of things in the bedtime routine. Also, my Mom and I have spent a lot of money on my teeth. Most people lose their teeth these days to gum disease, not cavities. I picture the pain and frustration of losing perfectly straight, cavity free teeth because I didn’t take care of their gums.

  • gretchenrubin

    I love all these flossing tips. Now I have no excuse. Maybe the next Wednesday Tips list should be devoted to this!

  • http://www.automated-trading-system.com Jez Liberty

    Interesting! I just did a couple of posts on my blog (not productivity related – actually its about building automated trading systems… http://www.automated-trading-system.com) about accountability and I listed the projects that I was committed to so that could help me stay focus… And therefore more happy as I lose the feeling of “being all over the place!”

    Thanks for these extra tips. I am sure they will be useful in my projects.

  • Hayley

    I use Triple Clean Floss Picks. I keep them in my desk and in my bathroom. They are really easy to use and since I have them so readily available I am able to floss everyday after lunch or whenever I have a snack at work.
    You don’t have to floss right after you brush your teeth. I like flossing after lunch, b/c I know I won’t have food stuck in my teeth.

  • coachcharley

    Great guidelines, Gretchen. In my work, I find that having specific steps help my clients get clarity around what to do next. The missing piece, is recognition that this is about change…changing habits, actually, and an appreciation of how hard it really is to change them.

  • Bee

    Reach Access Flosser! Do your whole mouth in 60 seconds.

    Once I got into the habit of flossing daily, I try to use traditional but the Access is a quick back-up when I just don’t feel like it.

    Thanks for another great ‘Weekly Tips!”

  • SpringFlowers

    I have a “flossing fish” – named Flossy (how original!) At first I thought it was ridiculous to spend $12 on an item that, basically, comes free with the floss – but Flossy sits, out in the open, on the counter, a visual reminder and a “cute” motivator. Every evening it’s like “Hey! There’s Flossy!” I pick him up, get some floss, and get ‘er done. Somehow, even being accountable to an inanimate (though anthropomorphized) object works for me. It’s not a chore; it’s time with my cute little Flossy. Weird, but successful.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BWXYUA

    ~SpringFlowers

  • http://olegmokhov.com/ Oleg Mokhov

    Hey Gretchen,

    Concrete goals yield concrete results; vague goals yield endless “I’ll get to it”‘s.

    I feel your 1st tip–Frame your resolution in concrete actions–is the most important one. If you don’t have a concrete goal that you can clearly picture yourself accomplishing, doing anything else will have you running around blindly. You won’t get the results you want, you’ll become unmotivated, and no goals will be accomplished.

    By having a clear goal, it’s hard to get off track because you know exactly what the end result will be. The path is very clear.

    Thanks for the simple but useful reminder to make our goals as concrete as possible, then kick our butts and get it done,
    Oleg

  • http://tenaciousme3.wordpress.com/ Laura Lee Bloor

    Thanks for the helpful post, Gretchen. Tips 1 and 5 are what prompted me to start my blog Tenacious Me, which is all about achieving goals and changing habits.

    I feel you on the flossing dilemma. I can’t seem to be consistent on that one either. I think it’s because I haven’t really made up my mind to want to be consistent with it. Perhaps you haven’t either.

    You have to genuinely want to do a goal before you can accomplish it.

  • Heather

    Thanks, useful post as always!

    Re flossing:
    I have the same problem and it troubles me deeply, so I tried buying some of those little one-use-only disposable flossing sticks. They’re like little toothpicks with a fork at the end with a bit of floss between it, so you just poke the stick in your mouth and floss away. I find that having a pile of these next to my toothbrush every morning a lot easier to stomach than the idea of sticking my fingers in my mouth and trying to manipulate into strange configurations, which really puts me off.

    I have found that sometimes when good old fashioned discipline fails, making the task easier is the only way to ensure it gets done.

  • http://www.karin-carter.com/ Karin

    Gretchen, I was going to share my Top Secret Super Effective flossing tip, and checked the other comments to see if it had already been mentioned. There are loads of us who floss outside the bathroom!

    I hate standing at the sink doing nothing but flossing. I’d rather floss while watch a movie or reading on the computer. It takes the tedium out of it! I keep floss handy so I can make sure it’s done before I go through the wash face, clean contact lenses, brush teeth routine, which is enough to do already.

    Thanks for a great web site!

  • beaugirl

    I’ll share a story about keeping a resolution. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire adult life (I’m 37), never able to lose more than 5-8 lbs (which is not noticeable on me), and always gaining it back. I read a study showing that putting money on a resolution makes a huge difference, so a friend and I made a 6 month bet where we each had to lose 5 lbs per month or pay the other person $75. It worked – I lost 30 lbs and she lost over 40 lbs! I’ve also discovered a website where you can put money on your resolutions – stickk.com allows you to sign up for your money to go to a cause (or anti-cause if that’s more motivating) if you don’t meet your goals.

  • http://www.mummyzen.com/ Holly – Mummy Zen

    I enjoyed this post Gretchen and you gave some great strategies. I especially like #4 and 5 – join a group and tell people about your resolutions. These both work well for me.

    I’ve just written a post on my blog about setting yourself weekly goals of one small thing to give-up and one small thing to take-up and how by focusing on something small and simple over a short time-frame can actually help you go on to incorporate the aim long-term. Have a look if you have some time: http://mummyzen.com/the-give-uptake-up-plan/

  • Ash

    Have several boxes of floss and start with one in the bathroom and one on your pillow. Put one in your bag and have one at the kitchen sink. Have someone keep moving them. You will keep finding them and when you do, you floss or at least remember that you are not flossing. I can tell you flossing is the best thing I have ever started doing. I have dental issues and spending the tens of thousands I had to get my mouth in order was inducement enough. I could have bought a home with that money. That said, I have not had a cleaning in a bit… and that will cost me too.

  • Vanessa

    I keep my floss on the endtable where I sit when I watch tv. Instead of trying to floss as part of the brushing ritual before bed, I floss whenever….If I’m sitting on the couch, well, there I am and there’s the floss, so I get to it.

  • http://personaldevelopmentchallenges.com/ Patrice

    The Happiness project – nice title and very interesting post. It’s good that you shared those smart tips to your readers.

    Keep posting!

  • prasad_ark

    Keeping a resolution is a subject that never disappoints you.So many people including me,make resolutins and unfailingly fail in keeping them.I wish I could follow some steps here to keep up with my resolitions.A very helpful post indeed!

  • Name

    About the flossing: Don’t try to floss daily. You’ll give up eventually. Instead, pick an interval – weekly, monthly, whatever you genuinely think you’ll be able to do – and appoint a regular Floss Day. I tried this (Sunday was Floss Night) and it was *much* easier. (Is it as good as flossing daily? Probably not. Is flossing weekly better than flossing daily for a week, then giving it up for another six months until you see the dentist and start all over again? Almost certainly!)

  • anonymous flosser

    Nothing worked for me until I read this visual aid lesson plan for young children. A teacher puts on rubber gloves then spreads peanut butter on her fingers. Then she uses one hand to try to wipe away the peanut butter by only swiping the surface of her hands (the fingers of the resting hand remain pressed together). She might even rinse the hand under water (while keeping the fingers pressed together). After all that, she spreads her fingers apart to show the children the brown goo that remains despite her best efforts at wiping (brushing) and rinsing. I have never actually seen this done, but the mental image of all the gross brown leftover gunk motivated me to start flossing and now I’ve done it nightly for about three years.

  • Name

    The thing that finally got me flossing every day was doing it in the morning. I figure once a day is good enough and if it was in the morning instead of not at all, then so be it. And I also use Glide because it’s so easy.

  • Name

    I enjoyed reading all the suggestions for getting in the flossing habit.
    But, really, I don’t understand why people have such a struggle with it. It doesn’t take half an hour to do (maybe 5 minutes), and I would think not having gunk in between one’s teeth would be rewarding enough.

  • penneyforthem

    This quote worked for me. I read it somewhere, from a dentist, and I find it sticks in my mind and kicks my flossing butt when I can’t be bothered.

    “You don’t have to floss all your teeth. Just the ones you want to keep”.

    Brr. Chills up and down the spine…

  • http://thebeadloft.etsy.com/ Tracy Johnson

    I floss and water pik after I’ve eaten anything (going to the dentist makes me very unhappy), and you would be shocked how little good flossing alone does to remove food particles from between the teeth.

  • kaye16

    Re flossing and other such resolution: It can help to change your expectation. Instead of saying “I will floss every night”, I changed to “I will floss 6 nights a week”. If there’s a night when it’s late, or I’m not feeling well, or whatever, I can skip it and not break my resolution. This is the trick that kept me going on about my fourth attempt at becoming a regular flosser. Actually I rarely skip nowadays, largely because I know my teeth feel better in the morning if I flossed the night before, but this experience takes a long time to become motivating.
    I’m just realizing that I should think about using this trick for other resolution I need to be keeping. :-)

  • Toranome

    I was never taught to floss as a child and have never been able to get myself into the habit. What I eventually found works for me is interstitial brushes (little wire brushes, obtainable from chemists’ shops or dentists), which I carry around and keep at strategic points in the house. They only require one hand to operate, and do a good job of keeping the teeth clean.

  • http://happinessnow.daliborruzic.com/happinessnow/2009/10/creating-habit-by-counting-number-of-repeats-no-thanks/ Dalibor ružić

    I have on by blog post about habits. And short version is: Make your resolution central theme of your day. :)

  • KEA

    I’m confused as to the comments about flossing outside of the bathroom….I thought “flossing” also involved “rinsing”, or am I crazy?

  • anniereader

    Flossing: Write down every reason you don’t floss regularly , including everything from “saving time” to passive-aggressiveness toward your dentist to false pride in your perfect teeth. Put down all the “hidden benefits”–I like to rebel, I’m too important to take the time to floss,

    Now write down every reason you can in favor of flossing your teeth: Happy dentist, keep your teeth longer, feel better about your sweet breath, stop feeling guilty or ashamed, etc. Make a cost/benefit analysis. 5 reasons not flossing pays off for you, for whatever reason, and 8 reasons you’d feel better/be happier? Write it down.

    Tell yourself, This is not a matter of “should”. There is no law requiring you to floss, there is no ethical reason you must floss, there is no scientific law, as in the statement, When the apple falls from the tree, it should land on the ground (because of the law of gravity). Those are the three possible uses for “should.”

    Instead, by a measure of 8 to 5, it is in my best interest to floss.

    Write a reminder note, to repeat daily, on your computer calendar. (If you have a Mac, it happens automatically. I don’t know what PC’s have–probably something similar.)

    Then leave out the floss in clear sight in your bathroom, or bathrooms, and Just Do It.

  • anniereader

    Flossing: Do you brush your teeth regularly? Is not your floss right out on the counter top at all times as a reminder? (Never hide it in your medicine cabinet.) Make up an inane jingle, the dumber the better, and sing it with your husband. Such as: “Brush and floss, Oh what fun; Until I floss My teeth aren’t done.” This is so dumb you will laugh and remember it. Give your husband permission to sing it at moments of his own choosing. Then don’t get mad at him when he sings it, and remember to laugh.

    Get rid of the idea that you “should” floss. There are just three meanings of the word “should”in the dictionary: Legal, moral and scientific. You “should” stop at a stop sign because it is the law, and if you don’t you’ll probably get a ticket. You “should” not be spiteful and mean because it’s hurtful to others and against your own moral standards. The apple “should’ fall from the tree because of the law of gravity. There is no legal, moral or scientific reason you “should” floss. It may be possible that you might lose a tooth or two, or get a cavity if you don’t floss, but even your dentist wouldn’t say that’s a scientific law. Instead, he would tell you what you should henceforth tell yourself: “It is in my best interest to floss my teeth every time I brush my teeth,” or whatever other measure you choose.

    Or do you really want to floss? Maybe you just don’t want to! Choose not to floss, use a little mouthwash now and then to spare your friends your tiger breath, and get on with your life.

    To be sure how you feel about flossing, write down all the pros and cons. It takes time, it’s boring, I enjoy a passive-aggressive rebellion against my dentist, whatever. And, on the other side, I feel clean and fresh when I floss, I LIKE my dentist and he will be happy, I won’t have to spend money being treated for cavities and gum disease, I won’t get defensive when my husband sings that silly song.

    Made a cost/benefit chart. 4 reasons not to floss, 6 reasons to floss, for instance, means 60% to 40% in favor of flossing.

    Tell yourself: It would be to my advantage to floss. It’s in my best inerest to floss. No judgmentalism, no self-scolding or lecturing.

    Put a daily reminder on your computer calendar.

    Do it. Write down that you did it on the calendar, and if it felt + or -. Or maybe +++.

  • Mary Lou

    I found the easiest and most way to floss regularly is to keep floss in my car and purse and pull it out every time I stop at a red light. Not only do I not mind waiting for the light to change since I’m productively using the time, but the red light stimulates me to think about flossing more frequntly. It also works for Kugel exercises.

  • AD

    I have finally tricked myself into flossing, after years of “meaning to floss more.” I put the floss container on my sink by my cup and I made a rule — if I think about flossing, I HAVE TO FLOSS, no excuses. This rule worked for me because it wasn’t that I was forgetting to floss necessarily, it was that I’d think about it and then decide not to because I just wanted to go to bed etc. Might be worth a try if this is your hangup too.

  • max.mare1

    If you really want to floss regularly you need a Hummingbird. (Oral B Brand) I could not get myself to floss regularly until I got a Hummingbird. I have purchased one for each of my friends. They laugh at me and thank me for being concerned for their oral health but, seriously, everytime I find something fantastic it gets discontinued on me. That makes me very UNhappy. It’s one of the many hazards of getting older. So I keep buying them for people I love in the hope that they won’t get discontinued. Please buy one!

  • http://www.barcode1.co.uk Barcode1 UK

    Good suggestions. In my experience, I can’t have too many rules/details when I make resolutions or plans.

    I made myself a detailed study plan last year at University, then COMPLETELY ignored it because it was too complicated and restrictive – I barely scraped through with a pass in all my papers at the end of the year. My new studying resolution is to study or work 8 hours each day: or to at least START studying at 8am. If I stop soon after that, at least I’ve done something that day! (I tend to get on a roll with things: it doesn’t matter whether I am studying or not studying, I find it hard to stop).

  • Nurunnaharshireen

    i am enjoying…
    like a fantastic job!!

  • Ximena

    sometimes I believe that making resolutions guides to rutine, because planning everything seems to be bored… how can you manage this without feeling this is always the same, at the same time in the same place???

  • Jim Clarkson

    “I’ve had great success with dozens of my resolutions, and yet I still don’t floss regularly. Any advice on another strategy to try?”

    I wonder if it may be useful to reframe your resolution to reflect the end result you desire? Flossing seems to imply using flossing string between your teeth. I could never do that either. What finally works for me is using Rota-dent Rota-Points to gently run between my teeth after I brush. Is easy to do, quick and very effective. There are many options besides these to get the same result as flossing with a much higher rate of follow-through.

  • name

    I started saving a particular piece of reading material (in my case, back issues of Yoga Journal) to read only while I floss. In this way, flossing has become an opportunity to catch up on articles I want to read but don’t seem to make time for otherwise.