5 New Year’s Resolutions That Might Actually Work

For example: don't make a resolution to walk once a day — get a dog and commit yourself to daily walks for the next decade

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A normal day in our life might look like this: The alarm clock buzzes. We hit snooze twice and steal another 16 minutes. As we get into the office, yesterday’s work crisis weighs heavily on our mind, but instead we log in and check Facebook for a while. After that, we dip in and out of meetings, chase our inbox, and start on a project that is due in 48 hours. And at 7:15, right before walking out the door, 25 minutes later than planned, we grab a sugar cookie from the communal jar to accompany us on the drive home.

A version of this routine is likely to be part of our grim reality most days, but there is one very important exception. On Jan. 1 many of us make all kinds of promises that “starting tomorrow, things are going to be different.” There is the old (2013 self) and the new (2014 self), and Jan. 1 is an opportunity to welcome the new, improved self in. As the New Year starts, we say to ourselves that the new, 2014 self will be different. We’re confident that from now on we won’t hit snooze, we’ll stop procrastinating and for sure we won’t mindlessly eat unhealthy snacks.

This kind of self-resolve is the kind of magic that keeps mankind moving. Unfortunately, come mid-January, the shiny “new self” doesn’t feel as new. After a few weeks of crashing against reality and old habit, the new self is bruised and sainted.

Given these challenges, how can we take advantage of our good intentions on Jan. 1 and make them work for us throughout the year, or at least for longer than they would naturally last?

One simple answer is to take advantage of these moments of clarity at the start of the New Year and take actions that would commit us to making good decisions in the future. Much like Ulysses and the sirens, this way, even if our future will tempt us to misbehave, we will not be able to act on our temptations.

Where in our modern life could the Ulysses-style “tying ourselves to the mast” help? Here are a few ideas that might help you make Jan. 1, 2014, different from Jan. 1 of years past:

  • Order an annual subscription to the Fruit Guy. By committing to a weekly service that delivers fresh fruit, we make having healthy food a reality. This approach has the added sweet side effect of urgency. Every week when the fruit is delivered, we know all too well that if we fail to consume the fruit in the next week, more of it will show up and we will have to waste the unused fruit. And if you like real adventures, what about a more extreme version of this? A weekly subscription to the Kale Guy?
  • Give a good friend the ability to take some money from your bank account if you break your diet. Tell this friend that if he sees you eating something unhealthy, he should withdraw a specified amount of money from your checking account and spend it. And if you find that this is not sufficiently painful, either make the amount larger, or make the deal with someone you don’t like that much (maybe your boss).
  • Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account into a savings account. This quick, onetime decision to transfer money will help you spend within your budget, while also helping your future financial security.
  • Working out every day takes a lot of ongoing willpower. Joining a gym is nice but still requires the daily decision to go to the gym. Instead, a better approach is to set up recurring weekly “meetings” with friends or co-workers for workouts. This kind of social obligation is likely to hold you, and them, accountable to show up, and once you have shown up, you might as well start sweating.
  • Go to the nearby shelter and get a dog. Once you make this quick onetime decision, you are going to go for daily walks for the next decade.

Doing all of these things would make Jan. 1 a very busy day. But, by doing these things when the desire to start fresh is still strong in our mind, there is a much better chance that our good intentions will keep serving us for the better part of 2014.

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the author of Predictably Irrational and, most recently, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves. Kristen Berman is the founder of Irrational Labs, a not-for-profit that attempts to get people to behave irrationally, but in better ways.

16 comments
docofsoc1
docofsoc1

These are some interesting approaches to resolutions, and it does strike me that accountability to someone else as a theme. A variation of that idea comes with resolutions that involve a commitment to someone you love. As a parent of a young child working hard to learn how to read, I made a New Year's resolution that I absolutely can't break by February: to help her with that goal. I wrote about this as a parent blogger at Bookboard, but it is basically my daily reality: she is a bright kid with a love of words and stories. Writing and reading remain huge challenges. Keeping her love affair with books alive, practicing reading each day, bedtime stories at night...I will stick to this resolution no matter what. http://bookboard.com/blog/2014/01/new-year-ongoing-resolution-reading-with-my-kid/  

BalakrishnanGurumurti
BalakrishnanGurumurti

indeed good read! people need to think how resolutions are to be materialized

WristReminder
WristReminder

This article focuses on setting up accountability for your New Year's Resolution.  Let people know and get their support to help you succeed, punish yourself if you fail, put things in your life that will force you to do something like get a dog.  Holding yourself accountable is only one part of setting and achieving good New Year's Resolutions.  Goals need to be specific and reasonable in many ways.  They need to be measurable so you know what you are accounting for.  "I want to lose weight" is not a good goal. What are you measuring, when do you expect to lose weight, how are you going to do it?  "I want to lose 10 pounds by June 1st" is a good goal. Then you need to set a plan to do it, and remember to do it.  I have developed some tools to help set New Year's resolutions and goals, some are free and more detailed versions cost.  Check them out to help set your goals. http://www.wristreminder.com/category-s/1829.htm

emilypanny
emilypanny

please do not make a QUICK decision to get a dog. what the hell kind of irresponsible advice is that?!?!

mssgkatz
mssgkatz

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE AMERICA...

For far too long now "traitors" to women, fair play, America, and this world, at the top of the economic ladder have twisted and maligned the laws, the country, its people and its institutions, as well as that of the rest of the world's populous into a quagmire of anarchy, confusion, mistrust, and despair for no other reason other than that age old villain "greed" and it's time for it to be put in its place... a very deep grave! But to do that, as must be done with all villains, they must first be "captured," "arrested," "tried" (for all to see) and when found "guilty" put down, eradicated and removed from this time so completely as to not ever have the capacity to reek havoc again.

This can only be done by "all of us" in concert, together, arm and arm, side by side, finally being feed-up with letting them have free reign to continue to divide and conquer us all with a whole host of slight of hand tricks they’ve used to keep us fighting each other instead of seeing that we are all being manipulated by them, the high and mighty power brokers of this world. 

How do we do though? How do we get it started? A first step in that direction is really simple, but it takes a lot of practice before it starts to seem easy. You ready? Here it is...
#1) DO SOMETHING THAT WILL HELP, NOT HURT… Do anything… Do everything. It seems simple enough huh?

#2) HELP SOMEONE... At some point you’ll have realize that we must be our brothers keepers... After all, who else is going to do it?

#3) LEARN HOW TO LOVE AND GET ALONG WITH YOURSELF AND EVERYBODY ELSE. 

It’s a lifetime job, a position that we have and need you to fill immediately. I’m talking full time employment here… a job that will never lay you off or give you a pink slip. We want everyone working full time on this one. Yes, I know... I'm asking a lot of you... But I wouldn't if I didn't think you had it in you
America. I believe in you, I think you can… Just start with #1 and work your way down the list. 

PEACE!


NuSkinIncome
NuSkinIncome

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akstanwyck
akstanwyck

ads are blocking this article making it impossible to read.

geekyisgood
geekyisgood

The last one is cute, but getting a dog on impulse is a terrible idea unless you know you are really ready to take responsibility for creature which will rely on you for its whole life.