Skip to content

To Keep Your New Year’s Resolution, Make it Positive

by Beth on December 19th, 2022

Many people set goals for the new year. This makes sense because January 1 is a “temporal landmark,” a day that stands out from other days. This offers us a fresh start. Unfortunately, very few people stick with their resolutions. There are many reasons for this, but one is that people set the wrong kind of goal. You can increase your likelihood of success by choosing an approach goal.

An approach goal is something you want to do, a positive outcome you hope to achieve. An avoidance goal is something you don’t want to do, a negative outcome you want to avoid. Many goals focus on avoiding something, like “stop eating ice cream at night” or “stop wasting time on social media.”

When you frame your goal as something you want to take away, that causes you to focus on what you don’t want to do. If I ask you not to think about a white bear, that’s all you can think about! If your goal is not to eat ice cream, you have to think about eating ice cream. If all you are thinking about is not checking your phone, you become really focused on your phone.

Most avoidance goals can be reframed as an approach goal. “I want to stop being late” can be changed to “I’m going to show up on time.” “I want to lose weight” can be reframed as “I want to get healthy.” Instead of “I want to stop scrolling through my phone at night,” aim for “I’m going to read in bed at night.” “I’m going to stop drinking soda with my lunch” can become “I’m going to drink tea with my lunch.”

Researchers in Sweden found that people who set approach goals were 12% more likely to succeed than those with avoidance goals. So consider framing your New Year’s resolution positively, as something you aspire to do. What would you like to achieve? If you want to eat better in the new year, instead of resolving to eat fewer calories, add something healthy, like aiming to eat 30 different plants each week. The act of adding something positive will help you not feel deprived and set you up for long-term success. What’s a positive habit that you will add to your daily routine to boost your well-being in 2023?

Comments are closed.