Five scientific methods for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions

Once more, it’s that time of year. Your friends, family, and coworkers are beginning to inquire, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” after champagne bottles have burst and balls have fallen.

The custom of setting a goal on January 1 is enjoyed by some. Others argue that since most resolutions fail by mid-March, it is pointless. However, there is really a rationale to getting on board with the fresh new goal fleeting trend, in spite of the terrible numbers.

My coworkers and I have demonstrated that when there is a new beginning, such as on New Year’s Day, your birthday, or even on Mondays, you are more motivated to work toward your goals because you believe you can move on from previous failures. Last year, maybe you set goals to lose weight, get in shape, or start going to bed on time. You can put those mistakes in the past with a new beginning like New Year’s Day and tell yourself, “That was the old me, but the new me will be different.”

Although it may sound delusional, the ability to let go of failures and attempt again is quite useful. After all, you can’t do anything unless you try, and a lot of worthwhile goals can be hard to achieve the first time around.

There are a number of strategies that behavioral scientists have discovered that can assist you in keeping your New Year’s resolution in 2023. If you have chosen a goal that is specific and manageable in small bites, these strategies are most effective. As a result, you should set specific goals rather than vague ones like “I’ll exercise more,” such as “I’ll work out four times a week.”

My book “How to Change:” contains my five favorite science-based suggestions for keeping your resolutions. The Art and Science of Getting to Wherever You Want to Be.

1. Make a plan based on cues

Research has shown that adding a cue to your plan helps you remember when to act, just like cues tell Broadway stars when to step onto the stage. Make sure to specify when and where you will carry it out.

A strategy such as “I’ll meditate on weekdays” would be too vague if your New Year’s resolution is to meditate five days per week. However, a plan that is based on cues, such as “I’ll meditate at the office on weekdays during my lunch break,” would be sufficient.

Planning when and where you’ll carry out your resolution helps you remember when it’s time and makes you feel bad if you don’t. It wouldn’t hurt to mark your plan on the calendar and set a digital reminder.) You’ll be sure to decline a lunch meeting if you plan to meditate during lunch because detailed planning can help you anticipate and avoid obstacles.

2. Think about a penalty clause

Although it may sound ominous, ensuring that you will be penalized if you fail to keep your New Year’s resolution can be extremely beneficial.

One simple way to accomplish this is to inform a few people of your objective so that you won’t feel guilty if they later check back and discover that you haven’t achieved it. If you told all of your social media followers, it would be even better).

Putting hard cash on the table, on the other hand, is a harsher penalty than shame. There is strong evidence that self-imposed cash penalties encourage success. With a friend, you can bet that you’ll keep your New Year’s resolution or pay. Technology, on the other hand, can assist. Sites like and welcome you to risk cash that you’ll need to relinquish to a cause in the event that you don’t accomplish an expressed objective. You simply need to name an official and set the stakes.

The reason this works is straightforward. Penalties are even more motivating than rewards when it comes to making decisions than incentives are. We are accustomed to being penalized by outsiders (governments, health plans, neighborhood associations) for our mistakes, but this time you are penalizing yourself.

3. Make it fun

When it comes to achieving our objectives, the majority of us strive for efficiency. If you have any desire to get fit, you figure a rebuffing exercise will be only what to create quick advancement. You believe that long study sessions without distractions are essential if you want to succeed in a class. However, research has shown that focusing on efficiency can result in neglecting an even more significant aspect of the equation: whether you enjoy working toward a goal.

You are unlikely to continue exercising or studying if it is not enjoyable. However, studies have shown that you will stay with something longer if you enjoy it. And in the end, that frequently plays a significant role in achieving a resolution.

Combining a guilty pleasure with a goal can make something that normally feels like a chore more enjoyable. I refer to this as “enticement packaging.” If you want to start looking forward to your workouts, you might want to limit yourself to watching your preferred television show at the gym. or allowing yourself to drink a mocha latte only during study time to provide a luring factor to the library. According to the findings of my own research, bundling temptations can be useful in situations where you might otherwise abandon your New Year’s resolution.

4. Prepare for the unexpected

If you make any changes to your New Year’s resolution, your first instinct may be to give up and label yourself a failure. This is known as the “What the hell effect” by researchers. The way it looks is as follows: You intended to go to bed early each night, but one Friday you couldn’t resist watching an extra episode of “Succession.” Because “What the hell,” you had already failed, your plans for getting up early and going to bed were put on hold.

Fortunately, there is a way around this. According to research, you can achieve better results than if you set either easy or tough goals without wiggle room, such as a 10 p.m. bedtime every night. However, you can still get out of jail free cards every week. Your ability to declare an “emergency” rather than “what the hell” keeps you moving forward after a misstep, and your stretch goal keeps you motivated.

5. Get some assistance from your friends

High achievers can help you perform better on your own. If running a marathon or writing a book is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you should start hanging out with friends who have done it (literally or figuratively) and can show you how. You’ll learn a lot just by spending time with them because you’ll be more likely to follow their routines. However, my research as well as the findings of other studies demonstrate that you will gain even more ground if you explicitly inquire about successful friends’ strategies for achieving a common objective and try them out yourself.

Strangely, there is evidence to suggest that coaching friends with similar objectives can also raise your success rate. It boosts your self-confidence when you have to give someone advice on how to succeed (why would they listen to you if you didn’t have anything to offer?) In addition, it forces you to reflect on what works in ways that you might not otherwise. And of course, if you don’t act on your own advice, you’ll feel like a hypocrite.

Happily, it’s more fun to keep your New Year’s resolutions with friends, which is another key to success.

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