If you're like many of the other people in the world, you probably began 2021 with a New Year's Resolution to better yourself. The problem is, most people report that their new year's resolution fails. However, thanks to a new psychological study, whether you follow through with your resolution may just depend on how you phrase it.
Many resolutions depend on the maker stopping or avoiding something. The study found that if the resolution-maker can find a way to alter their resolution to start something, they are much more likely to actually succeed.
A good example of this would be a resolution to stop being so lazy. Researchers found that people were far more likely to accomplish this goal if it was reformatted to be "go to the gym more" or "work for at least 2 hours a day".
The study followed just over 1,000 patients over 12 months and found that nearly 60 percent of the patients with positive goals, or "approach-oriented goals" as the study calls them, considered themselves successful a year later. This is in contrast to just 47 percent of the patients that had avoidance-oriented goals.
While these two statistics aren't miles apart, the data is statistically significant, demonstrating a clear pattern that people who make approach-oriented goals are more likely to succeed.
For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, you might try reformatting it into exercise more and eat better. This will keep you from getting sad about your lack of weight loss if it does occur and rather transforms your goal into an easily reachable action.
The study also separated people into different groups depending upon their relational support levels. Interestingly, the researchers found that people with just some support had the highest rates of success, more so than the people with high relational support levels.
This suggests that getting too much support for a goal might ultimately stress out the patients or put too much pressure on the goal.
The researchers of the study 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."
This new study is believed to be the most comprehensive ever completed on new year's resolutions. It was published in the journal PLOS One, here.