Whether you want to exercise more often, find love, or start a garden: Write down your goal, sign and date it, and put it on your fridge, or bedside table. Researchers from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found when we make a pledge, we feel more committed – even if we’re the only ones who see it. And that simple move gets us from the “thinking about it” stage to the “taking action” stage, and makes us 10 times more likely to reach our goals. Again, to accomplish your goal, write it down, sign and date it, and put it somewhere you’ll see it all the time.
Asking yourself that question – every day, several times a day – could make you more likely to stick with a healthier, lower-calorie diet.
So instead of making declarative statements like, “I WILL eat healthy” – frame your goals as positive questions, like “WILL I choose to eat healthier snacks?” A review of more than 100 studies in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that people who asked themselves questions were more likely to change their behavior. They were also more likely to STICK with their new habits for 6 months. The researchers call it the “question-behavior effect.” And it works because asking questions is much less confrontational than TELLING yourself what to do. And it’s much less likely to trigger the foot-dragging and resentment that can push you to give up your goals.
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Make sure your goals aren’t too hard OR too easy. Psychologist Loretta Breuning says when a challenge is too hard, we feel less reason to try. Because it seems almost impossible. But if it’s too easy, we feel no sense of reward when we accomplish it. But if you can achieve a goal with just enough effort, like increasing exercise by walking around the block every morning, you’ll be more motivated to keep going. Because realistic objectives inspire us the most.
When it comes to your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, settle on a goal – and DON’T have a backup plan. According to management professor Katy Milkman from Wharton, having a backup plan kills motivation. In studies, when people were asked to come up with a goal AND a Plan B, they were less likely to achieve their main goal. Professor Milkman says that’s because having a backup plan makes failure an option.
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Pick a target range – like, “I want to lose between 15 and 20 pounds.” That works better than choosing one specific number, like “I want to lose 18 pounds.” According to research from Florida State University, people who had a number range were more likely to meet their goals. That’s because a wider range challenges you to reach the high number – and the low number gives you a goal that’s more realistic. Which helps keep you motivated.