✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic
A clean slate. That is what January 1st signifies. And for many, the beginning of a New Year offers a fresh start and an opportunity to review goals, reevaluate priorities, get rid of bad habits, and establish new routines.
In fact, every year, millions of people make New Year's resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. However, once the glow of a fresh new year begins to wear off, only around 12% of the people who made these resolutions actually manage to stay on track.
So, what can you do to secure your spot in the group that managed not to veer off course? According to psychological research, here’s what you need to do to stay on track in 2022:
1. Reframe Your Resolution
A team of researchers analyzed resolutions made by 1066 people and found that New Year's resolutions referred to as approach-oriented goals, which are goals with positive outcomes, had a higher success rate than avoidance goals. In other words, it's more likely that you'll keep up with your resolution if you aim to create a new habit than if you want to break an existing one.
After a one-year follow-up, the study showed that those with approach-oriented goals (59%) were more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals (47%).
So, if your goal is to stop eating sweets, you’ll be more likely to succeed in doing so if you frame the goal as something such as, “I will aim to eat fruit several times a day when I’m craving something sweet,” instead.
By doing so, you're setting an approach-oriented goal, which will likely help you succeed in staying on track with your resolution and replace the habit you’d like to break with a healthier one!
2. Unleash Your Reticular Activating System
Resolutions are more challenging to keep if they involve unrealistic or vague goals. In fact, over 1,000 studies have shown that setting specific goals is linked to increased task performance, persistence, and motivation, compared to setting vague goals.
The reason behind this is that when you precisely define your goals, you activate a part of your brain that plays an important role in your ability to stay on track. This part of your brain, known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS), identifies information from your environment that is valuable to you, brings it to your attention, and filters out unimportant stimuli.
For example, let's say you’d like to eat healthier food in order to increase your energy. Therefore, if you should one day find yourself flipping through the pages of a magazine, your RAS can unconsciously help you spot a relevant article or recipe that will help you work toward your goal.