Whether your 2014 goal is to bring in new home inspection clients, cut your expenses or something of a more personal nature, it’s going to take discipline to keep up with your resolutions. Statistically, only about 8 percent of people achieve their New Years resolutions. The good news is that science can help. Here are four ways science says can help you stick with your new goals.
1. Just Focus on January and February
Instead of thinking of a new habit as a lifelong endeavor, focusing only on making your New Year’s resolution stick through the first few months can break down your resolution into more digestible bites. Research shows that it generally only takes about 21 days for a new habit to become part of your mindset, meaning that if you change something, whether it’s moving into a new home or changing your image, it only takes about three weeks for your brain to accept and adapt to that change. That doesn’t mean that if you can survive three weeks on a new diet or without smoking, you’re in the clear. A study from University College London reveals that it takes an average of 66 days of doing something every day to form a new habit. For individuals, that can range anywhere from 18 days to 254 days. Instead of thinking longterm, just focusing on getting through January and February will put you close to the 66 day mark and can help you break down your resolution into manageable bits.
2. Believe You Can
There’s scientific evidence to back up the saying “if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” Research from psychologists at Stanford University showed that the simple act of believing you have willpower can increase your chance of success. After being subjected to a barrage of challenges, participants who believed that willpower is an abundant resource, not one that tires out like a muscle, were far more likely to resist temptation and stay focused on doing more work than those who believed that willpower is a limited resource. In an article penned for the New York Times, Stanford professors and study authors Greg Walton and Carol Dweck wrote:
“When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted. But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing — that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one — then people successfully exert more willpower. It turns out that willpower is in your head.”
3. Break It Down
Envisioning success and relying on willpower just isn’t enough to stick with a tough goal. A study of more than 700 students at the University of Hertfordshire in England shows that participants who broke their goals down into smaller, more manageable steps were far more likely to stick with them than those who didn’t. Participants were also far more successful if they built in rewards, focused on their progress (rather than failures), told friends about their progress and kept a diary of the journey. Those who used all five strategies were more than twice as likely to reach their goals as their peers.
4. Go Public
Friends, family, home inspection clients and even strangers can help you achieve your goals. Research by Dominican University of California shows that people who sent weekly updates on their goals to friends were 33 percent more likely to stick with their New Years resolutions than those who didn’t. Technology can help. Developed by researchers at Yale University, StickK is a site that allows users to put their money where their mouth is and attach financial stakes to their goals. Achieve your goal and the funds come back to you. Miss out on a weekly, monthly or yearly benchmark and your money will go to the individual or organization of your choice.