Science Reveals How to Succeed With New Year’s Resolutions

As we wind down 2018 and look forward to the New Year, you may be part of the 40-50% of Americans making New Year’s resolutions. According to research, the most popular goals relate to weight loss, smoking cessation, and exercise. Let’s look at what makes for successful resolutions and the tools to impact lasting behavior change.

Contributed by Judy Dang, HR West 2019 Speaker.

Believe. Make Sure You’re Ready.

A study from the University of Scranton found that successful resolvers shared three characteristics:

  • Self-confidence that they can change
  • Self-confidence that they can maintain
  • Readiness to change

The researchers found that without those combined traits, resolvers were significantly less successful. Interestingly, the desire to change, social support, and having the skills to change did not predict success.

Know Thyself.

Noba (a free online psychology textbook portal) offers a chapter on motives and goals. Knowing your mental framework goes a long way in creating strategies that work for you. For example:

  1. Are you motivated extrinsically or intrinsically? Extrinsically motivated people often do well pairing up with an accountability buddy. Check out from Yale University. It’s a free platform to share your goal quest and get support from others. Or do you easily stay motivated because you enjoy an activity, regardless of who’s around?
  2. Is this an “ought” or a “want”? It can make a difference whether you’re focused on quitting smoking because you know the health risks. On the other hand, you may want to quit smoking so you can join a group on a biking vacation.
  3. Do you believe self-control is limited or unlimited? A 2010 study found that whether your willpower decreases depends on your belief about whether it’s a limited resource. If you believe you have unlimited willpower, you’ll have an easier time resisting temptations.

Try These In December

Now that you have a better idea of how complex your mental framework can be, here are four strategies for ensuring success with your resolutions:

  1. If you want to eat healthier: aim for good taste instead of only focusing on the health benefits. Hate kale? Don’t eat it. There are plenty of choices that are healthy. it’s OK to ditch healthy food that you don’t like. (I recently took raw carrots off my “ought” list.)
  2. If you want to overcome procrastination with chores: add fun elements. Adulthood for Beginners includes a chapter called “Don’t Avoid Chores—Gamify Them.” Some ways to trick your brain into thinking a chore is fun: play peppy music while paying bills, try to beat your record for how fast you can fold laundry; get colorful lunch bags; use a crayon to write your grocery list.
  3. If you want to accomplish anything: set bite-sized benchmarks. According to Chicago Booth Review, high motivation occurs at the beginning and end of a project. So “break a goal into shorter subgoals to maximize beginnings and ends, and to minimize middles.” Instead of “create a blog”, divide this project into mini goals. This creates the Fresh Start Effect so we’re constantly excited about the next benchmark.
  4. If you want to ensure success in 2019: start now. Want to eat better? Take the rest of this month to remove junk food from your kitchen and stock your pantry with healthy food you like eating. New habits take weeks to become routine so start now.


About Judy Dang
Based in San Francisco, Judy T. Dang is a productivity expert who works with clients to tackle physical and mental clutter so they can achieve their most meaningful goals. Clients go from feeling stuck to moving forward.

Clients go from feeling stuck to moving forward. Find out why Mondays are her favorite days here.

Judy will present When Everything Is Important, What Do I Do First?™ at HR West 2019.  March 11-13, 2019 in Oakland California. Be sure to register for this important annual HR Industry Conference! #HRWest19 on social media.

HR West 2019


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One Comment

  1. My session at HRWest 2019 will help you get crystal clear on what’s truly important amongst your hundreds of to-do items. You’ll leave with a visual map for how to move forward with confidence that you’re working on what will make the biggest difference for you in 2019. Did I mention I’m allergic to PowerPoint? No slides. No nonsense. Just practical strategies to use right away.

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