How to keep those New Year's resolutions

(Consumer Reports photo)

At the start of a new year, we're motivated to make changes in our lives. Maybe you've decided to improve your health in 2019. Making a significant change like eating differently and exercising more isn't easy.

So, the question is: How do you harness that motivation to reach your goals?

Katy Milkman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says good intentions are not enough. You need a plan with “clear, concrete, achievable goals that are a bit of a stretch” and be very specific about how you plan to achieve those goals.

"You don't want to say, 'I hope to lose 30 pounds in 2019.’ Instead, you'd say, 'I hope to lose two pounds per month and that would be a little more achievable,” Milkman explained. “And then you'd break it down to a plan, such as I'm going to cut out all of my Starbucks visits in the morning where I used to get a muffin – that's not happening anymore or its only happening on Fridays, if you want to be realistic about giving yourself a little wiggle room.”

Whatever it is, you need to figure out a strategy – the more specific, the better – that's going to get you to the goal, as opposed to simply saying this is my intention.

Prof. Milkman says something called "temptation bundling" can help get you to make changes and stick to them.

"It’s linking the thing that you know you should do more of with the temptation that will hook you and pull you to do it,” she said. “You can imagine only allowing yourself to watch your favorite TV shows while your exercising and now you have a hook that pulls you to the gym. You want to see what happens next in that latest TV show, so the gym becomes instantly gratifying, it's enjoyable, time flies while you're exercising, you don't even notice."

Think about other ways to link temptations with things you should be doing more often. Whether it's only dining out when you're visiting with a friend or relative, or only listening to your favorite podcast while exercising.

Prof. Milkman says she uses the temptation bundling technique and it works for her.

More Info: Is It Possible to Change Bad Behavior – Permanently?

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