Make goals not resolutions


If your new year’s resolutions tend to peter off after a month or so, you need to add “publicity and accountability” to turn them into goals, write Dan and Chip Heath at Fast Company. They say resolutions feel good when we make them, but goals feel good when we achieve them  – giving us an incentive to buckle down and do the work.

They describe the tactic of making and visualising concrete goals as a way to “outsmart your future self” and put yourself in the right frame of mind for putting your plans into action. And they use an interesting example from a psychology study to show how it works:

“The psychologists Peter Gollwitzer and Veronika Brandstätter studied
college students who had to write a paper about how they spent
Christmas Eve. The catch was that they were supposed to submit the
paper by December 26. At this point, the paper is in resolution
territory: It feels good to imagine yourself getting a good grade by
writing the paper. But, as with January gym memberships, the outcome
was not pretty. Only a third of the students got around to submitting a

A second group of students were given the same assignment but were
required to note exactly when and where they intended to write the
report (i.e., “in my Dad’s office on Christmas morning before everyone
gets up”). A whopping 75% of these students wrote the report. The act
of visualizing yourself in Dad’s office, writing your paper, changes
the way you respond to that environment when you encounter it. Now when
you see Dad’s office chair, an association springs to mind: Get to
work. You’ve managed to outsmart your future self.”

Reading this made me glad that my resolutions this year had concrete goals (I’m happy to report that I hit my target for January and that feeling of success is very motivating). If you’ve developed any other strategies or mind hacks for staying on target this year, please share them in comments.

Make goals not resolutions [Fast Company]


  • Great stuff! Congratulations on reaching your goals for January as well.

    My resolution this year is to improve my fitness level, and my approach is to have people who are keeping me accountable (read: nag 😉 ).

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