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The 90-Second Trick to Keep Your Resolutions This Year

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keeping new years resolutions

January 1st-15th, gyms around the country are packed. Eager, sweaty, “resolutionaries” have made grandiose mental pacts to turn their lives around.

The elliptical machines are pumped hard as the waiting list fills. The wheels of the stationary bikes spin wildly day by day. Dumbbells are scattered about chaotically as new exercisers swoop in and attempt to use them effectively.

Then it stops.

The bustling busy bodies of the 1st to the 15th dissipate and the gym feels calm again. The remaining people, the regulars who stuck with it from January 16th to December 31st of the previous year, nod to the other familiar faces as they head to their equipment.

A few new faces remain and join the regulars, but only a few. These rare people are the exception. They are the ones who are able to stick with their resolutions. Several of them know something that their peers did not.

Research on Meeting Goals

Research reveals that motivation is a first step to success, but it is not enough. Most people who succeed are doing something different from the masses: they have a plan.

An article published in the British Journal of Health Psychology[1] suggests that having a plan is so powerful that it can double or triple your chances of success.

The researchers measured the frequency that people exercised during a two-week period. They began by splitting off 248 adults into three separate groups as follows.

Group 1: Motivation Group

These participants were asked to track their exercise frequency in the coming two weeks.

Each person was given a pamphlet on how exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and was told, “Most young adults who have stuck to a regular exercise program have found it to be very effective in reducing their chances of developing coronary heart disease.”

The researchers’ goal was to motivate the group to exercise regularly.

Group 2: Intention Group

This group was put through identical protocols to Group 1 to ensure that the two groups were equally motivated.

Additionally, however, Group 2 participants were asked to explicitly write their intention to exercise by completing the following statement:

“During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Group 3: Control Group

These participants were asked to track their exercise frequency in the coming two weeks.

The researchers took no additional action to try to motivate this group and before leaving, each person was asked to read the first three paragraphs of an unrelated novel.

The Results: Intention Trumps Motivation

Two weeks later, the three groups’ results were remarkable.

Group 1: Motivation Group

In this group, 35% exercised at least once per week.

Group 2: Intention Group

In this group, 91% exercised at least once per week.

Group 3: Control Group

In this group, 38% exercised at least once per week.

The participants in Group 2, the Intention Group that wrote down the exact exercise plan, were more than twice as likely to follow through with their exercise!

Other Supporting Evidence

This result is no isolated incident. Numerous other studies suggest the same result. Writing down when and where an activity will be performed increased follow-through in studies related to performing self breast-examinations, taking vitamins, physical activity after surgery and others.

At the language teaching company that I run, Language Bird, we apply the same principle. One of the biggest challenges of learning a second language, or any skill, is staying consistent. For that reason we put our students on weekly schedules for their private lessons. If we were to have them learn whenever was convenient, they would be much less consistent!

This is also why having a set class schedule in high school is so important. The written schedule keeps most everybody consistent.

Applying the Research to Your Own Success

Now you know exactly how to be consistent and successful! What are your resolutions? If not resolutions, what are your current goals? Grab a piece of paper or open a document on your computer or device and take two minutes to write your goals.

Do it now.

Waiting...

Got it?

If you didn’t take those two minutes, then go back and do it for real.

Now, we are going to take step number two, which will be absolutely essential in your success. Write this sentence:

“During the next month, I will [ACTIVITY] on [DAY] at [TIME] for [X] minutes”

Here’s an academic example:

During the next month, I will study my Spanish notes from class on

  • Mondays at 7am for 50 minutes
  • Tuesdays at 7am for 30 minutes
  • Thursdays at 6pm for 30 minutes
  • Sundays at 7pm for 45 minutes

Here’s a health related example:

During the next month, I will exercise on

  • Mondays at 7am for 50 minutes on the elliptical
  • Tuesdays at 7am for 30 minutes on the treadmill
  • Thursdays at 6pm for 60 minutes in Mr. Scarola’s cardio weightlifting class
  • Sundays at 7pm for 45 minutes in the pool

Don’t overwhelm yourself at first. Start small and keep it realistic while you build the habit.

After the first month, revise the document as necessary.

Are you feeling resistance to doing this? Perhaps you skipped it? Red flag! This exercise only takes ninety seconds and will be tremendous in supporting your success. If you’re hesitant to do it, then it’s all the more likely that you need to do it!

Separate yourself from the masses and be that person who sticks to their goals and achieves them.

To your success!

[1] Milne Sarah, Orbell Sheina, and Sheeran Paschal (2002). “Combining motivational and volitional interventions to promote exercise participation: Protection motivation theory and implementation intentions.” British Journal of Health Psychology, 7, 163–184.

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Danny Kalman, founder of the online language school, languagebird.com, speaks English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Japanese, has lived in 4 countries and has traveled to over 20. Danny taught English full-time for 16 months with Japan's largest private English conversation school and has learned languages in every type of program. In his free time, Danny is an avid salsa dancer, competitor & performer.

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