It’s a brand new year and many people choose to make New Year’s resolutions. It can be difficult to keep them, but research shows that there is a possible way to succeed – rewrite your resolution.
How you design your solution is very important for the end result. If you change your solution from “I will take out / run” to “I will start”, you will have more chances to achieve your goals. This is one of the results of the world’s largest study of New Year’s resolutions. The study was published in a scientific journal in December 2020 PLOS ONE.
The study is based on decisions made by 1,066 people at the end of 2017 and made in collaboration between Stockholm University and Linköping University. Study participants had to formulate their own resolutions and were then divided into three different groups. The three groups received varying amounts of support throughout the year – no support at all, little support and broad support. Participants were persecuted every month throughout the year.
“It was found that the support given to the participants did not make much difference in terms of how well the participants adhered to their resolutions during the year. What surprised us were the results of how your resolution would be expressed, ”said Professor Per Carlbring of the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University.
The participants who formed an “approach target” were the ones with the highest success rates. The goal of an approach is a resolution in which you try to adopt a new habit or bring something new into your life. Decisions about avoiding or quitting something, “avoidance goals,” were less successful.
But is it as simple as changing your resolution again to succeed?
“In many cases, changing your resolution again can definitely work. For example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets to lose weight, you will be more successful if you say ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead. Then you replace sweets with something healthier, which most likely means that you will lose weight and maintain your resolution. You can’t delete a behavior, but you can replace it with something else. It may be more difficult to apply the resolution ‘I will quit smoking’, which is something you can do 20 times a day, “he said.
Reference: “A large-scale experiment on New Year’s decisions: Approach targets are more successful than avoidance goals” Martin Oscarsson, Per Carlbring, Gerhard Andersson and Alexander Rosenthal, December 9, 2020, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0234097
- The world’s largest experimental work on New Year’s decisions with more than 1,000 participants. The study was conducted for one year and followed monthly.
- The most popular resolutions relate to physical health, weight loss, and changes in eating habits (see chart).
- Decisions to start something / acquire new habits, so-called “rapprochement goals”, are more likely to be successful than decisions to give up / avoid something called “avoidance goals”.