Committing to your resolutions is a common struggle that goes beyond merely setting realistic goals or rewarding yourself. Here are some science-backed ways to help you build good habits this new year while successfully accomplishing your objectives.
The beginning of the new year is a time for re-establishing our goals and commitments, whether building a healthier lifestyle, practising mindfulness, or picking up a new skill. For some individuals, a little effort goes a long way and can bring long-lasting results. However, most are challenged with making it past one month, and studies have shown that more than half of all resolutions are set up for failure, lacking specification and achievability.
Take a step closer to achieving your new year resolutions by identifying clear goals and trigger points, while incorporating these science-backed techniques to help you develop a successful plan to stay on track.
1. Tiny Habits
The “Tiny Habits” approach was first introduced by a Behavior Scientist at Stanford University, BJ Fogg, in 2007, as part of the Fogg Behavior Model. The technique is effective in reforming human attitudes and perspectives towards new change.
Developed based on three key principles– “motivation, ability, and prompt,” the theory suggests individuals take small yet targeted steps in building a habit.
When goal-setting, opt for definite yet tiny changes that you wish to instil in your daily routine. Make the objectives measurable, with precise instructions, preset reminders, and deadlines to follow- this will enable you to track progress and build habits.
2. Build a Positive Mindset
It is proven that having a positive mindset improves performance and perseverance. Taking a more forward-looking approach can help develop one’s resilience to tackle change, while motivating them to achieve greatness with every little step. Increased positivity acts as great stimulation for your senses, and further heightens your reaction, and ability to process and subdue negative inclinations.
One way to frame your goals more optimistically is to emphasise the benefits that will follow if you choose to make the shift, rather than the effort a task requires.
Persevering through difficult situations makes you more likely to reach your goals more efficiently, and will also advance your ability to acquire a new skill along the way.
3. Get a Friend On Board
What better way to boost your motivation than to pursue a new year’s resolution alongside your family or friends? Devising a plan with a partner increases one’s chances of staying committed to their goals.
Recognition of personal values and aspirations is key step to setting attainable goals and ensuring both parties stay invested in their collective commitments, and seek effective ways to impact real change.
If your friends do not have the same goals, you can instead enlist them as cheerleaders in your pursuits. Sharing your milestones and road bumps with a friendly-face further accelerates your chances of success!
4. Incorporate Visual and Auditory Cues
Visual and auditory cues are effective in maintaining attention. Habits that incorporate a multisensory cue-based plan are far more effective in facilitating and maintaining daily patterns.
Individuals solidify their commitments by selecting targeted and perceivable signals associated with their goals as reminders to take action. Setting reminders on a calendar or digital devices designating a prompt, such as packing your trainers and sports gear, and building positive affirmations around them, will help you stay on track.
5. Do Not Limit Your Goals
Limiting your goal-setting to the new year is futile in bringing about long-term change. Most overly ambitious objectives lack a concrete plan, and are not sustainable in the long run.
Bas Verplanken, a Social Psychology Professor at the University of Bath stated in a behavioural study that beginning new change from the 1st of January is not sustainable. Certain goals require a more strategically targeted time frame to produce the best results, however, one should not limit themselves to such periodic constraints, but rather look for ways to develop them into habits and part of their day-to-day routine.
Psychologists suggest that individuals could attempt to restart their resolutions on other important dates, such as birthdays, and anniversaries, or try the Monday-reset approach, where you turn a single resolution into a regular commitment, starting fresh every new week.
6. Celebrate Milestones
Every win counts. Celebrating milestones is a way for people to acknowledge and appreciate their efforts and progress. It releases the “feel-good hormone,” dopamine, to rewire your brain in feeling more rewarded and motivated, which helps further stimulate individuals into taking the necessary action to achieve success with their overall goals.
New York-based Counselling Psychologist and co-author of MarketPsych, Dr. Frank Murtha, said, “Your vision is your destination, and small, manageable goals are the motor that will get you there.”
In other words, highly-motivated individuals are more determined to learn a new skill, and take on other challenges.
7. Set a Penalty Clause
Despite most behavioural studies suggesting that rewards offer better incentives, there has been recent speculation on the role of penalties as an equivalent or even far greater stimulus in influencing behaviour and enabling action. They essentially help you set attainable goals, create higher accountability, and keep you on track with your commitments, given the possibility of facing consequences.
If positive reinforcement is lacking effectiveness, try setting a penalty clause to take charge of disciplining themselves. From officiating monetary fines every time you fail to meet the required objective, to reducing leisure time for skipping a workout session- create a higher stake to motivate yourself.
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