‘New Year, New Me’… It’s something we all hear all the time, but statistically less than ten percent of us stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Why? The truth is- it’s hard to stick to our goals and a lot of us commit to things financially by joining a gym or buying that pair of jeans that ‘you will fit into by the end of the year’, before we put the things in place that really matter. I studied ‘The Science of Achieving Your Goals’ at University and learned some really useful tips that I’m excited to share with you all.
- First things first set yourself an attainable goal. A long-term goal is great, but setting yourself smaller, more specific targets has been shown to accelerate progress towards long-term goals (Latham & Yukl, 1975). So, you want to lose weight, how much do you want to lose and when by? You want a new job? When are you going to have your CV ready by? When will you start applying? Set yourself a deadline for your first step towards your long-term goal and then make another short-term target afterwards.
- Plan your goal-directed behaviour. Mann, De Ridder and Fujita (2013) have shown that planning your behaviour and creating an action plan leads one to identify the when, what and how of the given behaviour and therefore the goal. What do you need to do to be able to achieve the goal? If it’s running a marathon then how many times a week do you need to train? Where will you train?
- Pre-commit. Publicly committing to your goal is key (Carrillo & Dewatripont, 2008). Perhaps this could be positing your goal on social media, setting up a sponsorship page or even something as simple as telling your work colleagues, friends and family about your objectives. We all value other people’s opinions about us. Therefore, by publicly acknowledging our goals to others we feel embarrassed to go back on our word and admit defeat. I opened a sponsorship page when I did Dry January for charity last year and as soon as I’d posted it I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t let myself fail (no matter how much everyone thought I was going to!)
- Shape your environment around your goals. This will limit your opportunities for failure. Self-control is just like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the more fatigued it gets and the less able you are to continue to use it. I.e. by constantly surrounding yourself with temptation, the more deprived you will feel and if regularly faced with the feeling of self-deprivation it is likely you will become unable to tell yourself ‘no’ (Hofmann & Kotabe, 2012). When dieting, make sure that you are only buying the foods which suit your diet plan. That way, when you’re at home you won’t be using your self-control, so when faced with sweet treats in the office or in social situations you will be motivated enough to decline them. However, it’s not all bad; if used regularly, but in moderation, your self-control will become stronger and will therefore be better adapt to cope with long-term commitments.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol has been found to decrease inhibitions and increase desire (Hofmann, Baumeister, Förster & Vohs, 2012), both of which pose a threat to goal achievement. Not to mention, if your goal is fitness or weight loss it’s likely to have negative consequences anyway. Even if your goal is something else such as quitting smoking alcohol is likely to make the process much harder as you will be much more tempted to give in to cravings.
- Last but not least, (and I think you’ll like this one) whilst achieving long-term goals has been shown to have a positive influence on your happiness it’s important to not be too strict and hard on yourself. Scholer (2014) suggests that perhaps equally as important as having good self-control to enable long-term goal achievement, is to know when to give in to short-term indulgences. Afterall, what’s life without treating yourself every now and again? So, have that piece of birthday cake, have a day off your job search or going to the gym- just make sure you don’t give up on the long-term outcome that all your hard work has been for.
Have a happy and successful 2019 from Francesca and the team at KHM Recruitment.