Recently we looked at why most New Year's Resolutions are doomed to failure. Today let's look at a resolution that was stunningly successful and see if we can figure out why.

Let's face it, by the time we hit our forties, many, if not most, of us have had so many failed New Years' Resolutions that, for the most part, we've given up even setting them anymore. What's the use, we think. Even if we can "be good" for a few months instead of the usual weeks, days or "What was it I said yesterday [New Year's Eve] that I promised myself I'd do this year??" -- it's still another failure to change. "Besides," we think, "why should I change anything? I've never felt better, if you don't count all the preceding decades." But we digress ...

California's Karen Queally presents us with the New Year's Resolution's flip side -- an actual ultra-successful NYR. We will recount her achievement in hopes of finding out why she succeeded. This physical therapist / health-services administrator, wife, and mother of three decided, for her New Year's Resolution, to run every day. That was January first, 1997. That's right, she not only succeeded in running every single day in 1997, but she hasn't stopped yet! Karen hasn't missed a day of running at least one continuous mile (almost always several miles) for a little over 13 years or 4,757 days (if my calculations are correct and she didn't get up one morning recently and say, "Aw, the heck with it).

Lest you think that this is some kind of record for a running streak, there are 129 others who've run every day for 10 years or more (see for the complete listing). AND, Karen's not anywhere near the leaders, Jon Sutherland and Mark Covert, both 59, who have not missed their daily run in OVER 41 YEARS! The oldest streaker, as they are called, is Walter O. Byer, a 79-year-old with a 30-plus-year streak.

You may be wondering why someone would put themselves under this pressure (torture, anyone?)to run every day no matter what. What about sickness (we all get sick from time to time, right?), injuries, family emergencies or unexpected guests getting in the way of an occasional day's run? It seems that they don't let sprained ankles, the flu and even broken bones get in their way. In this regard, Karen had to deal with breast cancer in 2005, including chemotherapy and a mastectomy. At that point she had an eight-year streak going and she wasn't about to let cancer stop her.

You may be thinking that all this running is a bit obsessive, or even that it must be detrimental to one's overall health; however, focusing on whether running every single day, no matter what, is a good idea or not is missing the point. Let's stick to our purpose here, which is to see what we can learn from Karen about sticking with / succeeding with our resolutions or other goals. We should mention here that Karen also set goals to run 50 26.2-mile marathons by age 50 and when she accomplished that, 100 by age 60. She accomplished her second of the two goals ahead of schedule when she ran her 100th 26.2-miler, the Yonkers Marathon, in October, at age 57.

So what's Karen's secret? First, remember that habits are thousands of times more powerful than desires. A New Year's Resolution is merely a desire. A habit, on the other hand, is just a strong (a dominant) neural pathway in the brain resulting from repeatedly doing or thinking the same thing. A desire or resolution is a fleeting thought in the conscious mind (which has a very short attention span); a habit exists in the non-conscious / subconscious mind and is dominant 24/7, controlling our actions and thinking.

In January of 1997, Karen started running first thing in the morning, every morning. Scientists have found that it takes about 30 days of doing something every day to form a habit. This habit becomes even more strongly ingrained when the activity takes place at about the same time each day and, of course, the more days in a row this activity is engaged in, the stronger the habit's bond becomes. Over time the habit, "good" or "bad," becomes harder and harder to break. In other words, the desire to stay in a warm, comfy bed on a cold or rainy morning becomes much less compelling than the habit -- the pull -- to go for an invigorating run.

Karen sets specific goals, such as to run in the Yonkers Marathon this October, and these clear goals motivate her, whereas many New Year's Resolutions are more nebulous and destined for failure. An example of this would be if we set a resolution / goal to eat better in 2010; that's a weak goal in that it is not clearly defined and therefore is hard to develop into a habit and thus difficult to keep.

Karen's success comes from transforming her resolutions from mere decisions or desires (fleeting conscious mind activity) to do something, to developing strong neural pathways in her brain (i.e., habits) by taking daily action. Her habit of taking a daily run is strengthened by doing this activity at about the same time each day. Finally, having clearly defined goals, measurable goals (e.g., running 100 marathons by age 60 and running each day) makes the successful accomplishment of her goals and resolutions that much more certain.

It does not matter what we think of Karen's goals / resolutions / her streak. What IS important for us is to learn from her. We all know how powerful habits are because of some of the "bad" ones we've struggled to rid ourselves of through the years. The secret to enjoying successful New Year's Resolutions, as Karen has, is to harness the power of habits. Resolve to do your goal activity every single day, preferably at the same time of day, until it is firmly ingrained as a habit. If Karen Queally can use the power of habits to amazingly run every day for over 13 years and reach her goal of 100 marathons, then what can we enjoy by harnessing the power of habits to our dreams?

Author's Bio: 

Ed Mayhew is a leading authority on slowing and reversing aging naturally, who through his speaking engagements, books, CDs and newsletters, helps Boomers thrive! His age-redefining books include: Fitter After 50, Fitter for Life and AGE BLASTERS: 3 Steps to a Younger You Visit him at: AND Ask for your F*R*E*E** Fitter After 50 e-newsletter