Every year, Americans make New Year’s resolutions; for 2018, an estimated 53% of Americans have resolutions to save money, and 45% of Americans have resolutions to exercise more (4). Sadly, it is predicted that only 8% of these Americans will fulfill their resolutions (3). Should this success rate be so low?
According to research done by multiple universities and professors, the answer is no! Here are two ways you can increase the success of your New Year’s resolutions, as proven by science:
Habits for Success
In a study published in 2009, a group of 125 students from the University of Chicago, who didn’t previously exercise on a regular basis, were split into 3 groups. Group A was given the goal to attend the information session for the experiment. Group B was given the goal attend the information session and exercise once in the next month. Group C was given the goal to attend the information session and exercise eight times in the next month. For all students in all groups, a reward of $175 was to be given if the student accomplished his/her designated goal.
Because of their assigned goal, Group C worked out more often during the month than Groups A and B. But once the month-long experiment was over, those in Group C continued to work out on their own much more than those in Group A and B. Without any outside motivation, Group C worked out 9 times, while Groups A and B only worked out half as much, over the course of seven weeks. This proves that if we can find the motivation to fulfill a goal slightly more challenging than our resolution for as little as a month, we can get ourselves into the habit of doing our resolution and set ourselves up for the rest of the year.
In a recent study done in June of 2017 at the University of California, Los Angeles, three groups were again given three different goals. Group A was given the goal to perform a task five times a week, Group B was given the goal to perform a task seven times a week, and Group C was given the goal to perform a task seven times a week, but they could have two buffer days in case they couldn’t perform the task. Essentially, Group A and C’s goals were the same — to perform a task five times a week — but Group C was given the initial goal to perform a task seven days a week. Group C, who was given the two buffer days, had a 53% success rate, while Groups A and B had 26% and 21% success rates, respectively. It is likely that Group C was more than twice as successful as Groups A and B because those in Group C avoided any feeling of failure. If they weren’t able to complete their task one day in the week, those in Group C weren’t discouraged because they were allowed two days as a buffer. If we set our New Year’s resolutions in a similar way that allows us to make mistakes, the chance of us accomplishing our goals is much higher.
The fulfillment of New Year’s resolutions is largely based on mentality, and science has proved that we can mentally set ourselves up for success. If we practice good habits and allow ourselves to make some mistakes, we can be far more likely to achieve our New Year’s resolutions!
Darlene Fung ’19