New year, new you? It isn’t easy, but you can achieve your 2015 goals for real. According to one study, 45% of Americans usually make resolutions for the New Year. Given that the U.S. population was just over 317 million at the start of the 2014 year, and that a dismal 8% are reported to successfully achieve their resolutions, this means a whopping 131 million Americans did not achieve their resolutions in 2014. Millions more around the world may have experienced this same failure rate.
Why do so many people make resolutions, while so few succeed? The pre-frontal cortex is an area of the brain responsible for controlling one’s will-power among other important functions, including abstract problem solving and short-term memory.
Asking the pre-frontal cortex to immediately adjust to a big, abstract, and daunting New Year’s resolution is like asking an untrained individual to perform Beyoncé’s choreography perfectly: it won’t work. Like a muscle, the pre-frontal cortex falters easily without proper training. This means that smaller and attainable goals will be easier to accomplish than larger ones.
If you do these three steps when you’re making a resolution this year, you’ll have a greater chance of being successful.
- Be specific. Set tangible goals with concrete deadlines that you can gradually work up to. Rather than making a generalized goal to, for example, run more often this year, train for a race instead.
- Make a schedule. Take time to create a plan and set mini-benchmarks for yourself. Reward yourself when you transcend tiny personal milestones along the way. Set aside specific days each week for your resolution, or sign up for something that already adheres to a schedule, such as a class. Don’t wait until you ‘have the time’ to work on your resolution.
- Track your progress. Make gradual changes and don’t expect too much too soon. Patience is everything. Mobile apps such as PumpUp are an excellent way to log your progress while other like-minded people cheer you on. It’s important to have a support team to keep you accountable.
“New Years Resolution Statistics.” University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology via Statistic Brain (2014). Web.
“U.S. Population Clock.” United States Census Bureau (2014). Web.
Diamond, Dan. “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It.” Forbes Magazine (2013). Web.
Lehrer, Jonah. “Blame it on the Brain.” Wall Street Journal (2009). Web.
Webley, Kayla. “Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions.” TIME Magazine (2012). Web.
Widrich, Leo. “The Science of New Year’s Resolutions.” Buffer Social.(2013). Web.
Vanderkam, Laura. “7 Secrets from People Who Kept Their New Year’s Resolutions” Fast Company (2014). Web.
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