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    Keeping New Year’s Resolutions: The Real Key to Motivation

    2011The month of January is half over, and if you’re like many people, your resolutions for 2011 might be melting as quickly as the winter snow when the temperature rises.  Maybe you’re finding that you’re already failing at keeping the resolutions you set just two or three weeks ago. Or, if you’re a procrastinator, perhaps you’re still trying to decide what goals or resolutions to set for this year.

    What is the best way to get motivated to attain your goals or maintain your resolutions?  Research shows that having open-ended self-talk (“self-talk” referring to the conversations you have with yourself in your head) can help a person achieve a goal. For example, asking yourself, “Will I go to the gym to work out today?” may be more motivating than saying, “I have to go to the gym to work out today.” It seems paradoxical, but the research seems to indicate it works.

    A crucial key to achieving goals is to be sure that they reflect what you truly want in life. Are you enthusiastic about your goal to read only literary classics this year? Do you really want to lose 10 pounds this year? Although goals like these are certainly worth aspiring to, you probably won’t feel motivated to follow through if they are goals that do not reflect the real you. Maybe literary novels (like the ones you were forced to read in high school and college English classes) are just boring to you. If so, then why would you set such a goal for yourself? Read what you find enjoyable. And though losing 10 pounds can certainly be beneficial for one’s health, you need to ask yourself if it’s a priority for you. Are you willing to put in the effort to exercise regularly and forgo high-calorie foods? Or, are you stuck in a fantasy of what you would like for your body to look like, yet lacking an intrinsic desire to make the necessary lifestyle changes?

    Ask yourself if your goals are what you want for yourself, or simply what you think you should want for yourself. To achieve something, you first have to want it.

    For other tips on keeping goals, see the Happiness Project’s “13 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions.



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    3 Responses to “Keeping New Year’s Resolutions: The Real Key to Motivation”

    1. VS says:

      You are right that to work towards a goal you have to really ‘desire’ it. Sometimes I have this feeling that when you are working towards a goal you are tested and only the ones who walk through the test start the real journey.

    2. What do you think of G. Rubin’s point that resolutions must be very concrete? Personally, I feel more intrigued by broader resolutions, which give me the feeling of resolving something significant for me. But I see Rubin’s point. Which different kinds of people do these two attitudes refer to?

      • Rachel says:

        I think concrete resolutions help people to measure and assess their progress toward a goal. A broader resolution is fine, but sometimes concrete goals serve as small steps toward a broader resolution. For example, I can make the resolution to exercise more this year, but if I set the concrete goal of going for a walk five days a week, it makes my resolution measurable and achievable. At the end of the year, it’s easy to see if I kept my resolution.