With the new year’s right around the corner, many of us start to ambitiously muster up a new list of goals. One study of people trying to quit smoking showed that over 50% were confident they would succeed, but only 12% did. While a broader study showed that a rather uplifting 39% of people in their twenties actually achieved their resolutions. Although a low total of only 8%. If you’re in your twenties, don’t get ahead of yourself just yet, and if you’re not; it’s just statistics. Don’t let it slow you down!
Don’t Talk Big Before Doing Anything
This study actually shows that announcing your goals before you actually do something can do more harm than good. One theory is that it gives you the illusion of progress, of having done something, and makes you feel better about yourself. That way it’s easier to decide that you don’t really need to change your ways after all when the time comes to do the actual heavy lifting. But no matter the reason,
Write Your Goals Down
A recent study by Dr. Gail Matthews that writing goals down increases your chances of success. So do just that. Write your goals down.
Tell A Supportive Friend
The same study indicates a much higher rate of success among the group of students who wrote down their commitments and sent them to a supportive friend.
Track And Share Weekly Progress With A Friend
Finally, the study(I know, helpful study right?) showed the highest rate of success among people who not only told a supportive friend, but actively updated them on the progress. In the study it was a weekly commitment, so why shy away from a winning formula!
A different study revealed that getting specific can mean the difference between failure and success. So when you’re writing down your goals, don’t leave them in the abstract. In fact, I am in the middle of a “superhuman productivity week”, and I managed to meet all my specific goals, but not less specific “read 100 pages of a useful book per day” that I have yet to meet. So don’t be afraid to get specific. And then a little more, and then a little more. Until there’s no mistaking what you’re supposed to do.
Focus On The Progress
According to this lifehacker article, a study found that receiving positive feedback actually increased the chances of success. So do yourself a favor, focus on the progress and allow yourself the drive to continue until you reach your goal.
Don’t Reward Yourself In A Counterproductive Way
Alarmingly, another study found that reminding dieters of their progress, made them more likely to reward themselves in an unhealthy manner. It actually made them make less progress! So while focusing on the positives is more likely to keep you going, it is also more likely to make you want to reward yourself.
So, while it can be tempting to reward yourself with an unhealthy snack when you’ve made significant progress, don’t take it overboard. If you notice that the first reward starts an unhealthy trend, find a better, less counterproductive way to reward yourself. Like going out to watch a movie, or catch a comedy show. The same goes if you’re trying to bulk up, or just trying to get in better shape. Don’t start slacking off because you’ve done well.
Give Yourself A Money Incentive
A recent study by Mayo Clinic demonstrated a significant increase in weight loss in people who were given a money incentive. There are many ways to do this, but here are two ideas. Make a bet with your closest friends, as they will likely be happy to participate knowing that it actually increases your chances. Another option is a website called stickk, where you will commit money to achieving a goal, if you fail it gets donated to a charity you disagree with, and if you succeed you get your money back. Plus these two ways have something in common, the incentive has an aspect of losing money. And given that most of us have a tendency to feel stronger about potential loss than potential gains(see loss aversion), that’s just an added bonus.
Bonus: Don’t Go Overboard
While you’re now statistically more likely to achieve the goals you set, if you go crazy and try to achieve all your dreams in one fell swoop, it is likely that you’re going to get overwhelmed and quit. Although I couldn’t find the statistics to back it up, I have been a victim of this particular brand of hubris before, and it didn’t end well for me at all. So in addition to all the things mentioned above, use common sense.
Happy holidays, happy new year, and I hope this post contributed to some great success stories still in the making!
Ragnar is a freelance writer with a passion for personal development. He’s currently working towards achieving location independence, and will hopefully be embarking on his first adventure in the spring of 2014. Read his blog for the occasional insight, inspiration or just a sense of camaraderie in reading about him trying and failing.
If you’ve decided to take life into your hands and force yourself to enjoy it, check out Ragnar’s blog Tangible Freedom. Where he shares his struggles and what he learns along the way.