December 30, 2012 | 7
As I read the funny pages this morning in the paper, I noticed a running joke: no one keeps their New Year’s resolutions. There are a million different personal and psychological reasons for this–but you can use SCIENCE to better understand why you fail, and how to get better at achieving your goals.
The tip I’ve learn that’s helped me the most is to NOT TELL ANYONE about what you want to do, at least not point-blank. The act of announcing what you aim to do to friends and family–and hearing their approval–provides similar satisfaction to achieving the goal, giving you a “premature sense of completeness,” as noted in a 2009 study (PDF). And with your self-satisfaction meter already half-full before you start, the motivation to work hard is sapped. Essentially, proclaiming your goals at a New Year’s party can undermine your own efforts from the get-go.
It’s this tip that actually brought me back from the blogging dead. Over and over I told my friends, family, and editor that I was going to get back into blogging, all to no avail. It wasn’t until I laid out a plan for myself–start organizing papers, planning themes, taking notes–and told it to Bora, lord of the blogs, that I was able to actually start blogging again. I didn’t share the goal explicitly: instead I shared the steps I would take, thus delaying my own sense of achievement.
So on December 31st, hold back from sharing your endgoals. If you have to talk, talk about the steps you’ll take to achieve it.
This, of course, isn’t the only insight from psychology that you can use to set and achieve goals, break bad habits, or instill good ones. Eric Barker of the blog Barking up the Wrong Tree has a great summary of science-based tips for self-improvement.
Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: Statue at Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille, France on Wikimedia Commons