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New Year Resolutions: How to keep ’em for good!

Time passes by quickly and rapidly, and it’s another new year again. It’s the time when (almost) everyone starts worrying about new year resolutions: some of us might be thinking of reducing waistline, others might plan to kick their smoking habit (actually, many do it and they do it very often), some might want to save more money this year, others would like to become a better human being (usually in case they could not come up with any concrete new year resolutions)! All said and done, majority of us may admit that our new year resolutions fizzle out by the end of January, or may be in many instances, by the end of the first week of the year itself. This is a problem we face almost every year (by the way, why bother about new year resolution, it happens with almost all goals we set, for that matter). So, let’s talk about how to deal with this problem of ours: How to stick to our new year resolutions?

Well, I am not gonna give you any short-cuts to help you make and subsequently stick to your new year goals. Rather, in this blog post, I try to summarize some five simple ideas that I might use to make sure that I don’t deviate from my new year resolutions, if I make any.
Image source: Getty Images
First and foremost, following what all preachers suggest, I would also go for making a plan, or say list of goals. The list should not be a virtual one, but in black-and-white. Writing down my goals and plans implies that I commit myself to those goals. And it is scientifically proven that committing yourself firmly by explicitly writing down your intentions increases preventing screening rate. In an earlier post, I reviewed an article published in Nature, that talks about how predetermined shopping list helps people stick to a healthy shopping habit. In a similar fashion, when we have our resolutions written, the chances of getting it through are higher than otherwise. So, let’s write down our resolutions, right now (only if you have any)!
Of course, one important aspect of setting goals or making new year resolutions is: it should be specific and achievable. We all know our strengths and weaknesses, as well as how much we can take on. On our list should include the most important things that we want to accomplish this year. Be precise; don’t generalize. For example, if I want to loose weight, I cannot vaguely write my goal as “To loose weight”. It would be more effective if I plan as to how much weight I want to loose in how much time frame and in what ways such as jogging 2 extra kilometers or hitting the gym thrice a week, and so on. Also, it should be within our capabilities. I cannot set a goal of saving half of my salary (if presently I end up borrowing from friends and relatives to survive). Be rational in setting up goals.
Thirdly, reward yourself for avoiding any temptation while sticking on to the task. This is something what noted psychologist and behavioral economist Duke Professor Dan Ariely calls reward substitution in his book The Upside of Irrationality. It may also be referred to in the context of bundling of temptations. What it essentially means is we tend to motivate ourselves to do some otherwise difficult-to-take-up tasks by way of rewarding ourselves. For example, I love to listen to music, but due to some reasons or the other, I didn’t get to enjoy music very often. Also, like most of lazy asses, I also prefer resting on the couch to jogging. To overcome this problem of duality, I adopted this strategy of bundling the temptations of listening to music with hitting the road for jogging. Now I can enjoy my favorite music for at least forty five minutes straight while I jog in the evening. Well, this strategy serves the purpose for most of our otherwise-difficult-to-start tasks, and that is for sure. The once catch is that you need to look for the right temptation.
Image source: Getty Images

Like rewarding ourselves keeps us on track towards working for our goals, punishment does do its bit. This punishment need not be literal one. As Richard Wiseman from University of Bristol suggests, it is completely natural to revert back to our old habits from time to time, hence treat any failure as a temporary setback, but don’t make them as an excuse to give up altogether. At the same time, think of some punishment, even virtual, for your every failure. This fear, even small, of punishment might keep you focused on your goals. As some behavioral economists founded a website called stickK.com, where you can link your bank account and set your goals. You can arrange to forfeit money if you don’t achieve your goals. This money can go to a charity you hate most, or to your friend’s account, and so forth. This strategy of financial (dis-)incentives can make your plan effectively on track. You can improvise this strategy by giving a sum of money to your friend/spouse saying that if you fail to achieve a certain goal within a given time frame, (s)he can keep the money that you gave, thereby making sure you still work for your goals.

Finally, find someone who can kinda mentor you through the odds of achieving the goals. This becomes more important if the goal requires some specific pedigree. In an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it was found that achieving goals become easier with the help of a mentor. So, seek social support to achieve your goals. Richard Wiseman also suggests that we should share our goals with our friends and family. By doing so, we feel the fear of failure and consequently working more sincerely for our goals, but at the same time, it gives us motivation in terms of eliciting support from them in case we are able to achieve our goals. Another reward… huh!

These are some of the ideas that I feel might keep us stick to our new year goals. Well, obviously there could be lot more, and you can find articles written on this subject here, here, here, and here.

If you haven’t happened to chalk out your new year resolutions yet, fearing that your last year’s new year resolutions got burst right after you overcame the hangover of new year party, then it’s time to write down and share your new new year resolutions. Cheers!

Note: This is a mirror post from my another blog Slices of Thoughts.

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