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The Science of Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Want to bolster your chances of actually staying true to your 2013 New Year's resolution, whatever it may be?

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Want to bolster your chances of actually staying true to your 2013 New Year’s resolution, whatever it may be? Then consider heeding these tips:

According to Quest, we should ingrain “tiny habits” for ourselves rather than try to rework our behaviors outright, which is a more daunting task. According to a Stanford professor who proposed this trick, these tiny goals can be anything from practicing an instrument for 30 seconds per day to flossing just one tooth to doing a single pushup when you first get out of bed.

These may sound like ridiculously small achievements, the Stanford expert says, but broad goals of “eating healthy” or “getting in shape” are much more elusive since they’re more abstractions than achievable feats. Instead, desired behaviors that are incorporated as day-to-day habits, much like brushing your teeth or washing your hands before eating a meal, are much more effective since you’ll carry them out without thinking about it.

Once someone forms the foundation for a new habit—like flossing one tooth per day—soon that habit turns into a full-blown daily flossing ritual, not just of one tooth but all teeth. At least this was the result the professor achieved when he asked several hundred volunteers to carry out the flossing task for a week.

Forbes India also offers a couple simple tricks for going all the way with your resolution. Keeping a scorecard could also help you track your progress—for example, how far your run at each session on the treadmill, or how much time you put into studying a new language—since this will keep you tuned in on whether or not you’re slipping on your efforts. It’ll also create a nice sense of satisfaction if you manage to keep on top of your resolution.

According to one New York University professor, Forbes reports, you should keep your resolution to yourself. Announcing your goal implies a sense of completion, meaning you’re less likely to follow through. Lifehacker, however, counters this suggestion, advising that you tell a couple friends or family members. Having social support helps people achieve difficult goals, they write, and you could even ask friends to hold you accountable for following through with your resolution. In the New Year’s spirit, of course, this also means you should throw a party with your supportive friends when that goal is eventually realized.

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