Implementing New Year’s Resolutions

Second, make sure that you really want to reach your goal. Ask yourself why you want to reach your goal. If you discover that you want to reach your goal because your habit is annoying to others, ask yourself whether it is worth pursuing. This might of course be the case if you have a bad habit that annoys your partner and you want to please your partner by getting out of it. However, sometimes you might set goals because you know many people that have the same goal. Planning to exercise because everybody does it will probably not motivate you enough to reach your goal.

Third, reaching your goal is going to be tough. Therefore you will need a good plan. Start with formulating your goal concretely. Research has shown that it is easier to reach your goal if you have set yourself  implementation goals(Gollwitzer & Schaal, 1998). For example, if you want to exercise formulate where you are going to do that, when you want to do it, how are you going to get the money to pay for it. Most importantly, make a plan for times in which things get hairy. What are you going to do if you are invited to a party on your exercise night? Make sure you have enough arguments to persuade yourself to not give in to temptations at these moments.

Part of the plan is to set yourself subgoals. If your goal is to visit your family more often, set yourself the goal of visiting your family on Tuesday of the current week. If you manage to do so, you can increase your subgoal to visiting your family every Tuesday. Make sure that your road to goal attainment goes step-by-step. The tricky part in setting subgoals is that you might mistake your subgoal for your final goal. Reaching your subgoal may make you feel like you do not have to continue to pursue yoursuperordinate goal (Fishbach, Dhar & Zhang, 2006). However, if you managed to stop eating candy for a week, it does not mean that you do not have to exercise to keep losing weight. Keep in mind that you only have made a small step towards your final goal, you are not there yet!! 

Fourth, set yourself punishments, distractions and rewards. The next paragraphs will discuss each of these in detail. With regard to punishments, make sure you do not punish yourself too hard. Therefore, choose tasks you do not like as a punishment. For example, if you do not exercise when you actually planned to do it make yourself do the dishes for fifteen minutes (make sure you really have to do something you detest or it will not work). By applying such punishments you will be penalized when you do not comply with your plans. This might reduce the guilt you feel over not being able to execute your plan.

For distractions, provide yourself a list of things you can do when you have difficulty sticking to the plan. Distractions are especially useful when you have to quit a habit that you usually perform at home. When you quit smoking make sure that you have a book to read or some candy to eat, when you long for a cigarette. Distracting yourself during difficult times will make the attainment of your goal easier.

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