A New Year’s resolution is a commitment – a personal commitment – that an individual makes to do something new and constructive, like reforming a bad habit or achieving a personal goal of some sort. An interesting question to ask is: What are the success rates of New Year’s resolutions?
Not great, according to a New Year’s Resolution Experiment conducted in 2007 by British psychologist Richard Wiseman. The experiment tracked over 3,000 people with a range of resolutions, including weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking, and drinking less. Out of these 3,000+ individuals, only 12% achieved their goal.
How can we improve our odds of success? This experiment yielded some interesting pointers that can help, and in doing so the experiment highlighted some differences between men and women:
- Women were more successful when they were asked to go public about their goal and told their friends and family or were encouraged to be persistent and not to give up because they had fallen back to an old habit, such as succumbing to temptation for that chocolate-laden dessert.
- Men were more likely to succeed when asked to set a specific goal (e.g., lose N pounds per week versus a vague goal of “losing weight”) or focusing on the rewards, the positive outcome – the carrot – and not the negative outcome – the stick.
Finally, I would add that you should find a way to celebrate and reward yourself when you achieve your goal – in a way that won’t undo all of your hard work!
Have a Happy New Year and I wish everyone the best in 2013.