"Science be praised!" - Five ways to improve your odds at keeping your New Year resolution
SO, you want to improve your probability of keeping a goal you've set?
Well... read on! I will share with you the wisdom of the force.... (err..behavioural psychology).
If you want to substantially improve your probability of success in obtaining your goals, implement the following five rules:
(Psst...by reading this you have already increased your probability of success, so congratulations).
Rule one - Set a specific and measurable goal, and do so publicly. Use social media if you must, but better yet, tell an actual person. This person can help keep you accountable, and even if they don't you are more likely to want to avoid a lack of progress if you have stated your intentions.
Rule two - Break your goal down into achievable steps (think daily tasks) and reward yourself for completion.
Rule three - This is key - reward yourself with something that you use or do a lot of in your free time.
Consider using your phone, the TV, the gym, reading etc. Essentially anything that you would spend your time engaged with. If you’re really ambitious, you can reward yourself with a project at home or at work. The key is to use something that you would have spent time on otherwise.
Once you have established what it is that you spend a lot of time on, prioritize your goal ahead of it, and only engage in the reward behaviour (i.e using your phone, going to the gym, or tackling a project) after taking the time to pursue some aspect of your goal.
Note: If your goal is to reduce a behaviour - i.e. smoking, unhealthy eating etc. reward yourself for completing a specific and measurable replacement behaviour. Example - hitting a punching bag for a few minutes instead of smoking. Ideally, the replacement behaviour should be something that provides the same reinforcer as the one that it has replaced, but either way, make sure you have a replacement for the behaviour you want to be eliminate.
Rule four - Track your progress! Put a check mark on a calendar immediately after you complete the aspect of your goal that you are working on that day, and revisit your progress when motivation wanes. Tracking allows you to see if what you have been using as a reward or a schedule is actually working. If what you’re doing to increase or decrease a behaviour/obtain a goal isn’t working, it’s time to change tactics. This might mean a new reward, new schedule, new replacement behaviour, or re-evaluation of priorities and goals.
Rule five - Don’t just throw in the towel when you screw up. For long-term goals our eventual off-day or failure is likely. Accept that you will sometimes fail, and congratulate yourself for the days that you did accomplish your goal.
Here is to 2018 - let's learn from our losses and have gratitude for our wins.