Brain and Behavior, Mindset

Incremental Goals For A Better New Year

Oh the joy of January: goal setting! For many of us, the frustration and disappointment of failure to achieve goals is a strong deterrent for typical New Year’s resolutions. After too many wasted gym-membership payments in February and March, we eventually ditch the idea of getting fit for the new year altogether. Yet research shows the alternative of simply maintaining fitness is far more difficult to achieve than renewing our health and wellness goals each year.

The journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes includes a recent article on the discrepancy of perceived difficulty between goals of perpetuation and goals of achievement. Over the course of three different studies, researchers evaluated participant perceptions of modest, large, or maintenance goals. While the objective function of a goal to maintain current efficacy may be “easiest” it doesn’t translate as such in human perception. Instead, incremental or modest goals create a finish line that actually feels easier to achieve.

What does that mean for you and me? Despite those frustrating failures, goal-setting does indeed help us achieve forward motion. The sustainment of status-quo on the other hand, ultimately feels more difficult and results in greater failure. Incremental goals throughout the new year will offer maximum opportunities for growth and increasing success!

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