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Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution

We have successfully commenced a new year and with each new year comes new resolutions. These resolutions typically span the gamut from healthier living to saving money to professional development. However, while everyone starts out with high motivation and good intentions, research suggests that approximately 80% of all resolutions will ultimately fail. With such a high failure rate, the question raises: What can be done to change around this statistic?

Fortunately, about a year ago, a group of researchers sought out to answer this question by conducting the world’s largest study of new year resolutions. The researchers solicited the participation of 1,066 individuals by asking them to formulate their own resolutions. Afterward, the participants were divided into three different groups: no support at all, some support, and extended support. The participants then received monthly follow-ups throughout the year.

What was found? Surprisingly, the support given to participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well they kept their resolutions. However, to the researchers’ surprise, what did make a difference was how they phrased their resolutions. That is, the participants that formulated approach goals (i.e., adopting a new habit) had the highest rate of success. On the other hand, those with avoidance goals (i.e., quitting a bad habit) were shown to be less successful.

So, what’s the takeaway? Simply rephrasing your resolution could significantly increase your chances of your resolution sticking. So for example, instead of creating the resolution of, “I will stop eating fast food”, try perhaps something along the lines of, “I will incorporate healthier food options.” Give it a go and make 2020 a great year!

Reference

Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0234097.