How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Markman's book is in stores Jan. 7, just in time for resolution season.
Markman’s book is in stores Jan. 7, just in time for resolution season.

If you’re like most people, you have spent a little time lately looking back over your life in the past year. You may even have picked one facet of your life that you feel you can improve and made a New Year’s resolution. And if you are really like most people, then that resolution is one you have made before, but didn’t succeed in completing.

The problem is that your most persistent behaviors are driven by habits that are governed by areas of your brain that are very good at keeping you doing what you have done in the past. In a very real sense, changing your behavior requires fighting against millions of years of evolution that honed your brain to be an efficient habit-creation machine.

If you want to succeed at changing your behavior this year, here is some advice from Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program. His new book, “Smart Change,” comes out on Jan. 7.

Be positive. The resolutions that are most prone to failure are the ones where you set out to stop doing something. Your brain cannot learn not to perform an action. It can only learn to act. So, focus your resolutions on developing a new behavior rather than stopping an old one.

Make a plan. Most of the resolutions that fail are described too generally to succeed. People will say that they want to get in shape, for example. You cannot get in shape unless you actually make a plan that involves specific days and times in which you will carry out actions. So, focus on going to the gym Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 4 p.m. rather than just “getting in shape.”

Be realistic. Take a hard look at your life the way it really is and then make resolutions that you can actually achieve. If you have never exercised for more than a half hour at a time, do not set the goal to run the Boston Marathon this year. Start by just picking three days a week when you will go to the gym for 30 minutes. And while you’re at it, pick a gym that is close to your office or home rather than a gleaming palace of fitness a 30-minute drive away.

Manage your world. A lot of your behavior is driven by the world. We are prone to do things that the world makes easy and to avoid things that the world makes difficult. So, find the temptations that will disrupt your resolution and make them hard to do. If you tend to eat whole pints of ice cream at a time, then don’t keep any ice cream in your freezer.

Engage with the right people. Humans are social creatures. You naturally adopt the goals of the people around you. So, start spending time with people who are achieving the goals that you want to adopt. Wean yourself off the people who are engaging in behaviors that will derail your new goals.

Have some compassion. Every attempt to change behavior involves taking a few steps forward with the occasional step back. Don’t let the step back break you. Remember that every failure is just an opportunity to learn more about yourself. If you are trying to lose weight and you overeat, then look at what happened and make a plan so that you avoid the temptation the next time it comes up. There will be days when you lose a battle, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose the war.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.

Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."