Starting & Stopping

We’re a week into 2021. How are your new year’s resolutions going?

Most are still going strong at this point, but as January creeps along, many people start finding it more and more challenging to follow through.

Why is that? 

According to a new psychological study, it may depend on how we phrase our goals. The study followed a little over 1,000 patients over 12 months. Researchers found that most resolutions are centered around avoiding or stopping something. What they suggest instead is that we find a way to pivot and start something. That way, we are much more likely to stick with it and succeed.

The resolution to “stop being so lazy” is a good example. Simply by rephrasing it into “go to the gym more” or “work for at least 2 hours a day,” researchers found that people had a greater chance at accomplishing their goal.

The study found that around 60% of the participants with positive goals, or “approach-oriented goals,” saw themselves as successful a year later, in contrast to only 47 percent of the participants who had avoidance-oriented goals.

Even though those two statistics aren’t worlds apart, the data is significant in that it identifies a clear pattern — people who make approach-oriented goals are more likely to succeed. 

So instead of making a resolution to lose weight, you may want to rephrase it into exercising more and eating better. This seemingly unnoticeable flip in language could give you a noticeable push in the right direction. It turns your goal into an attainable action.

The participants of the study were separated into different groups depending upon their relational support network. Surprisingly, the researchers found that people with just some support had the highest success rates, even more so than those with high relational support levels.

That finding suggests that getting too much support for a goal might ultimately stress out us out or put too much pressure on the goal.

The researchers noted, “Participants with approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals (58.9% vs. 47.1%). The group that received some support was exclusively and significantly more successful compared to the other two. This study reveals that New Year’s resolutions can have lasting effects, even at a one-year follow-up.”

You can find the study in the journal PLOS One. It is believed to be the most comprehensive ever completed on new year’s resolutions. 

You may want to give your resolutions some more thought. Do you need to change the way you phrase them? Or, do you need to make some now that you have a new trick up your sleeve to help you be more successful? Either way, we believe that we can always take steps towards being healthier and more fulfilled. Here’s to your success in 2021. We believe in you!

Sources:

https://www.su.se/english/news/how-to-succeed-in-keeping-your-new-year-s-resolution-1.531618
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269603745_Why_Is_Avoidance_Motivation_Problematic_and_What_Can_Be_Done_About_It
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0234097

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