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New Years Resolutions Don't Work! Do Science Based Goal Setting

Posted Dec 31 2012 12:51am
Researchers state that 95% of all New Year's resolutions don't work.  Yet we all make them or say we do.  Why?  Probably, because we believe at least one thing in our lives this year can be improved.   Goal setting strategies are proven to work, but it takes a little more than saying to yourself "I want to lose my beer belly".  If you are really invested in achieving your goals isn't it worth five minutes to set up a proper structure?  I have come up  5 easy steps which have been shown to produce high rates of success.  Take 5 minutes and do it....for yourself.  I double dog promise it'll work
1.  Get something to write on (a computer is fine and this thing they call paper works too).  This is the easy step.  Many studies have shown the actual act of writing down a goal already gives you an huge advantage.  Writing and then seeing the words in front of you help. 

2. First think and actually try to visualize the goals.  Maybe close your eyes for a minute and picture yourself achieving them.  Then, and this is very important, write down 2-5 goals you'd like to achieve this year - and leave a few lines under each goal.  Make them specific and within the realm of possibilities.  No goals of sleeping with the Queen and/or finding and capturing Bigfoot (although I understand they're close...but they'll never get him down - he is a dirty fighter) or making 2 billion dollars - Not likely to happen by the end of this year, unless you're close all ready. Sorry.   

3. Write down 3 positive reasons why you want to achieve these goals.  Be real with yourself.  i.e. I'd like to lose this butt weight so I can: (a) feel more energy and be healthier  (b) feel less self-conscientious at the beach and gym (c)  look more attractive to my boyfriend/girlfriend.

 4. Write down 3 negative consequences if you don't achieve your goal.  Essentially gaining leverage on yourself will push you to achieve the less painful and pull toward the more pleasurable goals.   Be specific and list the aggravation and/or discomfort caused by not achieving the goal   i.e.  I'd like to start meditating this year on a regular basis,  however if I don't (a) my stress/anxiety level will remain high and that will effect my personal relationships (b) I'll still have feelings of being overwhelmed  which effects my work (c) My brain and health will not be reaping the scientifically valid benefits of daily meditation (it takes only 5 minutes!) and I will probably not fix my bad sleeping habits. 

5.  This step is the easiest and hardest one to do, but it is also the most effective technique.    No writing required (unless of course, writing more is one of your goals); do one thing everyday for 365 days of the year in pursuit of your goal - that is not necessarily but could be the goal activity.    This proactive task will keep it fresh in your mind and provide some comfort that you are on your way to making this goal come true.  Whether it be a phone call to a gym about a membership (for a weight loss goal); reading an article on how to improve your business (for an increased sales goal ); or doing one nice thing daily for the wife/husband (for an improved marriage goal).  There are lots of things you can do daily to achieve your goals.  Other examples include: talking to people who are already there; join a club;  participate in a NYRR race; looking up a relevant website and adding content; buying a food diary and writing in it etc.   

Example Worksheet
1. I'd like to run the NYC marathon and finish it under 3.5 hrs
             1. 
             2.
             3.

             1.
             2.
             3.
2. I'd like to exercise at least 2 days per week, getting in at least 108 workouts; 
             1.
             2.
             3.

             1.
             2.
             3.
3.  Id' like to be smarter so  I'm going to take at least 2 online classes free I-tunes University.
              1.
              2.
              3.

              1.
              2.
              3.

Now that you've completed it, (and I hope you did, after all it is for you) please put this list somewhere you can see it on a daily basis - if it's private in nature, hide it in a desk drawer or such.  I would also recommend you tell at least one close and accepting friend your goals.  This last 'soft step' puts a little more leverage on you and you'll likely get some positive feedback and help.

One of my goals it to write at least one unique, informative, health and fitness related blog post weekly - writing 50 or more by 2014.   Good Luck and Happy New Year!

BTW: This counts as my 1st blog post of the year!

Sources
1. http://aer.sagepub.com/content/29/3/663.short  - Self-Motivation for Academic Attainment: The Role of Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Personal Goal Setting
2. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1986-23150-001 - The application of goal setting to sports
3. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1996-91388-001 - Goal setting in sport and exercise: A research synthesis to resolve the controversy
4. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=vJZ3XvePUjEC&oi=fnd&pg=PA13&dq=%22goal+setting%22+%2B+pain+and+pleasure&ots=ImaYWN2NXW&sig=utha3F16Dv4pIeWg8zJTUrhExCE#v=onepage&q&f=false  -  Motivation Theory and Research
Doug Joachim - NYC www.JoachimsTraining.com
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