Ask an Expert: What is the Secret to Successful New Year’s Resolutions?
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New Year’s Resolutions notoriously fail. How can we use behavioral insights to reverse the trend?
First of all, self control is hard! Here are three ideas I’d try:
1. Make an investment now that makes it easier to comply with the resolution in the future. For instance, suppose my resolution is to eat healthier or try out more plant-based meals. Signing up for a regular meal subscription box or service may be the perfect way to make this happen, since I make a single decision now (enrolling in the program), that affects my behavior for the rest of the year (making healthier meals each week).
2. Share the commitment — and success — with a friend or family member who you’d be embarrassed to disappoint or who could cheer you on to complete your goals. For example, I know that I’d be much more motivated to get outside regularly with the support of a friend who’s an outdoor enthusiast, and who then discusses my weekly walks or hikes with me. Any time my reputation is bound up with a resolution, I’m more likely to follow through.
3. If you’re already making yourself accountable, then it helps to choose “categorical” resolutions. That is, instead of pledging to eat less meat, only eat meat on weekends. Or, instead of pledging to volunteer more, pledge to always volunteer in a certain setting. Such categorical resolutions are not only easier to keep track of, they also facilitate accountability.
Erez Yoeli, Research Associate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Director of the Applied Cooperation Team
Looking for more tips? Here are other good reads on New Year’s resolutions:
- For the new year, try 12 monthly ‘micro-resolutions’
- 5 New Year’s resolutions you can keep (with the help of behavioral science research)
- 10 Great tips for keeping your resolutions this year
- How to make (and keep) a New Year’s resolution
- The science of keeping your New Year’s resolution
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