’Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions, goal setting and yearly plans; whether it be to lose weight, get that promotion, achieve a dream or take up a hobby, starting the year with a fresh new goal feels like the right thing to do. So as I loudly pronounced to my partner that in 2018 I would take up still-life drawing, he scoffed just as loudly with ‘oh yes, along with RnB dancing, kayaking, ballet classes and that course online you were going to achieve in 2017’.
With 80% of New Year’s Resolutions failing by February (Business Insider) and just 8% of New Year’s Resolutions achieved during the year (Forbes.com and Huffington Post), how can we set goals and achieve them?
Research on Behavioural Spillover (Dr Elise Margetts at the University of Melbourne) has shown that in order to increase the likelihood of achieving our goals we need to have a Superordinate Goal (in other words, a BIG goal) that is linked to positive behaviours that support the achievement of the BIG goal.
For example, “I want to live longer” (BIG goal) supported by “eat a healthy lunch”, “exercise 3 times a week” and “have 2 alcohol-free nights” (behaviours that support the goal). These behaviours need to be complimentary and not conflicting in the achievement of the BIG goal. In addition to a goal hierarchy, the BIG goal needs to either be a) so important to us that we think about it all the time, or b) thought of regularly at the moment when we conduct the behaviour.
So in other words, for someone to achieve their BIG goal of ‘living longer’ they need to be thinking of living longer consistently, OR when they go running in the park, drink mineral water instead of a beer, or eat kale instead of cake, they must think this is so I can live longer. This is known as Positive Spillover, where one behaviour influences positively the achievement of another behaviour that is explicitly and mentally linked to a superordinate goal.
What tips do you have for making goals stick?