Rethinking Your Resolutions: How to Make Ones You Can Stick With
Everyone makes them, few keep them. That's right, it's the New Year Resolution, so popular that it has its own Wikipedia entry and a page on the government's Web site. Come January 1, everyone wants to lose weight, pay off debts, and quit smoking.
But we're not interested in which resolution you're making or which one is most popular. We want you to choose ones you might actually keep. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that keeping a resolution is balancing the relationship between your level of self-control and the nature of your goal. To build on that, here are five ways to make your resolutions stick.
1. Identify Yourself
According to the Journal of Consumer Research study, most people break resolutions when their goals require them to overcome their default tendencies. Let's say your resolution is to lose 3 pounds per week for 6 months. This would be good for a person with a high level of self-control because you can stick to a specific plan. But if you have a low level of self-control, you're more to abandon it for being too specific. By sticking to a broader plan, like resolving to replace your daily can of soda with a bottle of flavored water, you can ease into your resolution until it becomes habit.
2. Don't Correct Flaws
Two of the most popular resolutions are pursuing higher education and paying off debt. But if last year you never took the LSAT and couldn't make a dent in your credit card principle, somewhere you went wrong. "Your goals must be centered around strengths rather and weaknesses," says Liz Bywater, Ph.D. If you had no interest in going back to school, or if you weren't in a financial position to pay off debts, you were trying to correct what was-or what you perceived as-a flaw. Instead, look for feasible ways to build on things you can do.
3. Think About It
Don't just write down a list of things you think you might enjoy doing. If you think you might like to start running, but you hate cold weather and don't belong to a gym, how and where will you be able to jog?
4. Consider Other Input
What good is resolving to go on a diet-of-the-month if you know nothing about the particulars of a diet? The American Dietetic Association suggests that a meeting with a Registered Dietician can equip people with how to translate nutrition science into practical food choices that cater to their lifestyle. This can make weight loss a fun activity rather than a chore.
5. Embrace Free Will
A recent study by two psychologists found that people with a weak conviction about their power to control their own destiny were more likely to be cheaters. Perhaps this is the most important of all: If you don't believe you have the power to keep a resolution, you probably won't.
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