How to be successful with your New Year’s Resolution

Forget willpower – reaching your goal means retraining your brain to form new habits.

In 2013, I resolve to…

Work smarter, not harder? Spend less time at work? Learn a foreign language?

Research from Statistic Brain from the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology shows that the top 10 resolutions for 2012 included goals to: lose weight, get organized, spend less, save more, enjoy life to the fullest, staying fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others in their dreams, fall in love and spend more time with family.

This research also indicates that people who openly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t. Yet

most approach the process exactly wrong according to behavioral experts: they rely on willpower. In a survey released by the American Psychological Association, willpower was the top reason people cited for failing to make positive changes. Willpower is nested in part of the brain that is easily overloaded and exhausted. What works far better, researchers say, is training other parts of the brain responsible for linking positive emotions to new habits and conditioning yourself to new behaviors.

Additional research from the University of Scranton shows that while 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, less than 50 percent have success even infrequently, and only 8 percent of people fully achieve their resolution.

Resolutions are hopeful intentions to change – to make life better in some way. To make positive changes in 2013, you need a positive mindset. In practical terms, this means you might follow some change-oriented tips. “Grantseeker Tips by Miner and Associates, Inc. suggests the following:

Set smaller goals with smaller steps
Chunk up your larger goal (e.g., become more organized at work) into smaller increments (e.g., clean out one file drawer each week). Big goals are accomplished in small units. We typically accomplish our most difficult goals by focusing on more easily achievable, measurable and results-oriented objectives.

Be specific
It is easy to be discouraged by a broad goal like “I want to work smarter, not harder.” Instead, be realistic about what you can do – specifically. Identify small, specific actions that you can achieve and feel good about; develop a daily must-do list of critical tasks and check them off when finished. To be successful, concentrate on specific, observable, measurable objectives.

Be flexible
Although you should be specific about your new 2013 goal, sometimes the best of intentions go astray, such as when you spend the entire day sorting and answering emails. If you didn’t finish everything on your must-do list, don’t abandon it, simply carryover those important tasks the next day and work on them first! Accept that you (and all other humans) are not perfect; get back on board your action wagon because you had only a temporary setback, not a permanent defeat.

Michigan State University Extension offers educational programs and assistance to organizations in areas of strategic planning, developing SMART goals and results-oriented objectives, board member professional development and many other topics! MSU Extension also offers educational programs and assistance to organizations in areas of strategic planning, board member professional development, conflict resolution, and many other areas. To learn more about these programs, contact an expert in your area.

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