Like many you probably made several New Year’s resolutions. And like many, you may have already have broken them. It’s okay. But if you have stuck to them seven days into the New Year we have some tips to help you keep them!
1. Make a cue-based plan
Just as cues tell Broadway stars when to step onto the stage, research has shown that adding a cue to your plan helps you remember when to act. Be sure to detail when and where you’ll follow through. If your New Year’s resolution is to meditate five days each week, a plan like “I’ll meditate on weekdays” is too vague. But a cue-based plan like “I’ll meditate at the office on weekdays during my lunch break” would fit the bill. Plotting when and where you’ll execute on your New Year’s resolution jogs your memory when it’s opportune.
2. Consider a penalty clause
This may sound sinister, but ensuring you’ll face some penalty if you don’t achieve your New Year’s resolutions can work wonders. One easy way to do this is by telling a few people about your goal so you’ll feel ashamed if they check back later and find out you haven’t followed through. (Telling all your social media followers would up the ante further).
A steeper penalty than shame, however, is putting cold hard cash on the table. There is actually evidence that self-imposed cash penalties motivate success. You can make a bet with a friend that you’ll stick to your New Year’s resolution or pay. Alternatively, technology can help. Websites like StickK.com and Beeminder.com invite you to put money on the line that you’ll have to forfeit to a charity if you don’t achieve a stated goal. You just have to name a referee and set the stakes. The logic for why this works is simple. Incentives change our decisions, and penalties are even more motivating than rewards. We’re used to being fined for our missteps by outsiders, but this time you’re fining yourself for misbehavior.
3. Make New Year’s resolutions fun
Most of us strive for efficiency when it comes to achieving our goals. If you want to get fit, you figure a punishing workout will be just the thing to produce rapid progress. If you want to ace a class, you assume long, distraction-free study sessions are key. But research has shown that focusing on efficiency can leave you high and dry because you’ll neglect an even more important part of the equation: whether you enjoy the act of goal pursuit.
Embarking on a difficult workout may sound like a great way to see progress fast, but research has shown incorporating a fun element will help you stick with it.If it’s not fun to exercise or study, you’re unlikely to keep at it. But if you get pleasure from your workouts or study sessions, research has found you’ll persist longer. And in the end, that’s what often matters most to achieving a New Year’s resolution.
4. Allow for emergencies
If you deviate at all from your New Year’s resolution, your instinct may be to declare yourself a failure and throw in the towel. Researchers call this the “what the hell effect.” Here’s what it looks like: You planned to get to bed early every night but couldn’t resist staying up late one Friday to watch an extra episode of “Succession.” After that, your early-to-bed plans went out the window because “what the hell,” you’d already failed.Happily, there is a way to dodge this fate. By setting tough goals (like a 10 p.m. bedtime every night) but giving yourself one or two get-out-of-jail-free cards each week, you can get better results than by setting either tough or easy goals without wiggle room, research has revealed. Your stretch goal keeps you motivated, and the ability to declare an “emergency” (rather than saying “what the hell”) keeps you pushing forward after a misstep.
5. Get a little help from your friends
Last but certainly not least, get a little help from your friends!
Spending time around high achievers can boost your own performance. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to run a marathon or write a book, you’d be wise to start hanging around friends who’ve made it to the finish line. You’ll pick up a bit just by spending time together because you’ll be inclined to to their patterns of behavior. But research and studies done by others show that if you explicitly ask successful friends how they achieved a shared goal and try out those tactics yourself, you’ll gain even more ground. Strangely enough, there is evidence hat coaching friends with shared goals can improve your success rate, too. When you’re on the hook to give someone else tips on how to achieve, it boosts your self-confidence (why would they listen to you if you didn’t have something to offer?). It also forces you to be introspective about what works in ways you might not otherwise. And of course, you’ll feel hypocritical if you don’t follow your own words of wisdom.