Resolve to Keep Those Resolutions

When a new year or even a new semester starts, we all make vows that this year or term will be different. This year, we will stop smoking, lose weight, and/or get in shape. This term, we will go to all our classes, make the dean's list, and never pull all nighter. Yet, in a month into it, we all know what happens. We are back to buying a carton of cigarettes, keeping chips on hand at all times, and barely able to run in a mile in less than eight minutes. The below cartoon reflects a pattern we all display toward working out.

Based on conclusions from motivations research, these suggestions could help you keep your new year's or new semester's resolutions, including:

    • Create small, weekly rewards timed to doing the activity for the entire week.
    • For big projects, develop deadlines throughout the term that lead you to the completed project. Give yourself a small reward for meeting each deadline.
    • When you complete the big project, give yourself a big reward.
    • Avoid rewarding yourself for routine behavior, or behavior that you should be doing.

When I quit smoking (the last time), I bought myself a used compact disc each week for the first two months that I did not smoke. A used CD cost the same as five-cigarette packs. Yes, this story is a bit dated. At the end of the second of month, based on research, I knew it was unlikely that I would resume the habit. So, I stopped rewarding myself at the end of the eighth week. Four months later, or six months since I stopped smoking, I bought myself four new compact discs and bought a portable compact disc player to mark my one year anniversary of not smoking.

By creating incentives of various sizes and timing them to coincide with deadlines, you are more likely to keep your resolutions.