You don't have to make a New Year's resolution. If you want to set a goal, you can do it at any time. But the new year, which prompts us to be reflective and forward-looking at the same time, is a natural starting point. Unfortunately, as you've probably heard, most New Year's resolutions fail. Around half of Americans set a resolution each year, but just 19 percent are successful over time. However, research indicates that New Year's resolutions aren't a total waste: one study found that among people who reported wanting to change a particular behavior, 46 percent of those who made it their New Year's resolution were successful, versus just 4 percent who did not.
The problem with most New Year’s resolutions is that they’re lofty and nonspecific. Be a better person. Sleep more. Get in shape. Big-picture goals sound good, but if you focus only on those things, you're setting yourself up to fail. That's not because you are a failure, but because there’s no clear path toward your goal, and it’s difficult to measure progress. Goals are powerful motivators, but only if they are well-defined.
Here's how to stop making yourself feel bad and start setting better goals using basic principles of behavioral science. Since fitness is my area of expertise (and fitness-related resolutions are among the most popular), the examples I’m using will be fitness-related, but they apply to all kinds of goals.Read More