The Secret to Sticking to Your Resolutions

Every year, I make a lot of New Year’s resolutions.  Big ones, like volunteer more, get worked up less, slow down. And every year they dissipate like dandelion seeds, scattering in the wind.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, has a few suggestions for how to stick to your resolutions, like writing them down, reviewing them every night and telling others.

Being competitive, I like the last one best. Tell your friends that you plan to volunteer at the nursing home down the road and they’re bound to ask you how it’s going. Let’s hope you have an answer.

Economists call tricks like telling your friends your New Year’s resolutions or taping them to the fridge “commitment devices“–tools that force you to stick to your commitments, even when you’re really, really tempted not to. We posted yesterday about how Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, used a commitment device during a drug trial to ensure he gave himself a shot every day. Economist Ian Ayres made a public commitment to gain weight and posted his weigh-ins online. People who use the website bet money that they can’t stick to a promise–whether it’s learning to fly, flossing regularly or not texting their ex 5,000 times a day. They lose the money if they cave. Even your 401(k) is a commitment device because it forces you to squirrel away at least some of the money you’d otherwise blow on a collection of  iPads.

So here I go: I plan to write that children’s book I’ve been talking about for years. It’s about a whale.  If I don’t, I promise to give up the idea to any reader who remembers this post in 2012 (it’s a good idea, I promise).

Posted in commitment

2 Responses to The Secret to Sticking to Your Resolutions

  1. Pingback: Commitment Devices (Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail, Part 2) « Game Theory Ninja

  2. CB says:

    Announcing goals actually may backfire and make you less likely to keep them. Here’s a TED talk and Siver’s post on his site about this.

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