I made three New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. The first one, to stop swearing, was broken at 12:00:02 am on Jan. 1, when I shouted “HAPPY F***IN’ NEW YEAR!” The second was to have a healthier diet, which was broken later that night after 3000 calories of chips and beer.

Never has defeat tasted so good

We’re now approaching late January, and I’ve heard an increasing number of people dejectedly telling their own tale of defeat. In fact, this article says 80% of people break their resolutions by the first week of February. The article doesn’t have any scientific citation, but I’ll accept it, which means my third resolution to only trust verified facts in the news is now also broken.

Which means I don’t have to try for anything for the rest of 2018. Time to celebrate

Why do people have such problems with resolutions though? Even if someone doesn’t apply impossible standards for themselves like I do, they still fail at an astonishing rate. Is it because everyone just vastly overrates their own skills and abilities?

Because that’s what I usually think when I see people post inspirational pictures like this

This study took a look at New Year’s resolutions and goal-attainment. They found that 55% of resolutions are about getting into better shape, like that time I wanted to get a beach body in 4 days. Another 34% were professional and financial-related.

The rest was people trying to learn how to whistle

The study examined the predictors of being able to keep resolutions, regardless of what they were. They found that deriving “immediate rewards”, or enjoying the process of reaching a goal, was the strongest predictor of actually reaching that goal.

Which means I have an excellent chance of getting that beer belly I’ve been working on

In the study, enjoying the process of goal-reaching predicted goal-achievement whether someone was working on a New Year’s Resolution, studying for a test (i.e., studying something interesting rather than boring), or getting in shape (picking a “funner” gym machine, as if that exists). Enjoying the process of achieving a goal increased the odds of getting there regardless of what the goal was.

For example, my goal of understanding this graph is severely hampered by how boring it is

Interestingly, how important a goal seemed to someone did not predict how likely there were to achieve it. Only enjoyment predicted goal-achievement, so no matter how crucial getting sick abs are to you, you’re not going to get there unless you like dieting and sit-ups, which nobody does, obviously. I mean, dieting and sit-ups, for f’s sake.

Forget about looking like this. It’s just not worth it

So how can you apply this to your own New Year’s resolutions? You can make the process of achieving your goals as enjoyable as possible. For example, if you want to get into shape but hate running, download some Netflix on your phone and watch it on the treadmill. Want to save money this year? Spend your time doing free things that you enjoy.

Need to write an article for your science blog? Do it while slowly getting hammered

If you can insert some fun into whatever you’re trying to achieve, you’re far more likely to get there. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single-step, and but that step will be far more awesome with bouncy pogo shoes. So get out there and find some enjoyable way to make that New Year’s resolution work.

For next year, obviously. I’m sure you already blew it this year

Dan’s goal is to find a fun way to not achieve anything. Email him or post on our Facebook / Twitter to see your topic covered here.

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Dan Re