Community//

The Science Behind Why We Like New Year’s Resolutions and How to Make Your Goals Achievable

These approaches will help you to go the distance so you won’t need to hit the reset button next year.

Goal line

With 2019 just around the corner many of us are already thinking about what we want to start, stop or do differently in the new year. We may want to show more compassion, make healthy food choices or build positive relationships to improve our health and wellbeing.

Why Are Temporal Landmarks Important?

Although we can commit to changing our behaviour anytime, we usually select the start of a week, month or year. Researchers suggest this is linked to perceived barriers and the expectation of success. For instance, if we select a goal that is challenging and highly desirable (like eating well), kicking things off on a Monday will likely be more appealing than any other day of the week.

Hitting the Reset Button

Another reason why we prefer temporal landmarks is a new time period provides an opportunity to ‘hit the reset button’ on past failures and get a ‘fresh start’. Unfortunately, the downside to this approach is we can very easily find ourselves hitting the reset button every Monday!

Further, with each failed attempt we get better at justifying to ourselves and others why we reverted to earlier behaviours. On the flipside, failure can provide helpful insights, including the type of goals that work for you and your capacity to stay motivated.

Photo: Tim Gouw

"It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

– Bill Gates

Approach and Avoidance Goals

Approach goals take you toward desired outcomes. Conversely, avoidance goals take you away from undesirable outcomes. To illustrate, below is a goal to eat well written as: (1) an approach goal, and (2) as an avoidance goal.

  1. Make healthy food choices every day
  2. Avoid foods high in saturated fat every day

Studies have shown that the way we choose to frame our goals can impact our wellbeing. Approach goals are linked to numerous positive processes and outcomes, and conducive to wellbeing, whereas avoidance goals are linked to a host of negative processes and outcomes, and diminish wellbeing.

However, that is not to say we should steer clear of avoidance goals.  Both goals are important as approach goals enable growth and wellbeing and avoidance goals facilitate protection and survival.  The trick is to frame our goals in a way that helps us to stay motivated.

Photo: Javier Allegue Barros

Staying Motivated

We are more likely to procrastinate about things we need to do but don’t want to do. In my next blog post, I’m going to explore barriers to goal achievement in more detail. In the meantime here are a few tips to help you set goals that you’re more likely to stick to:

  1. Identify actions or behaviours that will provide enjoyment and satisfaction
  2. Set realistic approach goals that don’t stretch you too far
  3. Connect with others so that you can give and receive support

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

– Colin Powell

Need More?

Download our free quick guide to setting SMART approach goals.

Also from Positive Legacies:

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Are NY Resolutions dead?

by Michelle Caira
Getty Images
Well-Being//

Here’s How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Actually Stick to

by Meditation Studio App
Community//

Time for a break: Reduce stress and make New Years Resolutions stick!

by Nicole Plotkin

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.