Are you one of the thousands, perhaps millions, enacting your annual plan to drop those pesky 20 pounds as a New Year’s resolution? Maybe you’ve vowed to finally join a gym, pursue that new job, lose that bad relationship, earn that advanced degree or move to the city of your dreams.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve given up entirely because of the rather gloomy statistics; supposedly a whopping 80 percent of all New Year’s resolutions are soon discarded like so much crumpled gift wrap.
Of course, those who failed may not have been aware of how science can be applied to your New Year’s resolutions to increase your chances of success. Consider how these techniques may help you implement real behavioral change for the first time.
- Just do it. It is not just a Nike slogan, but Newton’s Law tells us what’s in motion tends to stay in motion. You may have to start really, really small to make yourself take that first step toward behavioral change.
- Schedule it. Instead of having a vague mental scheme, pull up your planner, establish sub-goals and adjust your schedule to make room for actions you must take.
- Simplify everything. Cut out complexities; for example, plan how you’ll have healthy food ready to eat if you’re frequently waylaid by after-work hunger and exhaustion.
- Build in rewards. Even little things work as positive reinforcement for behavioral change, concludes a study in Harvard Business Review.
- Shut up that inner voice. Because negative thoughts can eventually change neural connections in our brains, we must effectively counter them, reports Melanie Greenberg in Psychology Today.
- Lose the all-or-nothing attitude. If you fall off the wagon, give yourself at least a day to bounce back without repercussion.
- Be patient. Remember it takes an average 66 days to establish permanent behavioral change with a new habit.
- Plan for your triggers. Understand what pushes your buttons and why so you can better handle the feelings that result, advises Marcia Reynolds in Psychology Today.
- See sidesteps as research. “It’s not failure, it’s data — information you can learn from to make positive changes,” writes Elizabeth Lombardo in Psychology Today.
As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Think through your next New Year’s resolution to improve your chances of long-lasting behavioral change.