Studies show that a surprising 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Fortunately, there are a number of science-backed ways that will improve your chances of sticking with them. One trick, that will only take a second, is changing your goals to approach goals.
Approach goal is an end state that you are striving to attain (get an A on the test), while an avoidance goal is an end state that you are striving to avoid (don’t get an F on the test). The effect of avoidance goals are almost universally negative. Avoidance goals are associated with high anxiety, disorganization, avoidance of help, self-handicapping, low-interest and ultimately low achievement (Senko & Hulleman 2011). Individuals who set approach goals consistently achieve better results.
Anxious people are also much more likely to hold avoidance goals, perhaps because they are always worried about failing. Interestingly, depressed people showed a different pattern. They is no relationship between avoidance goals and depression, depressed people do however have a deficit of approach goals (Dickson & MacLeod 2004).
So instead of setting resolutions like eating less donuts, set a goal of eating more fruits and vegetables instead. You’ll feel better and you’ll be more likely to achieve your goal.
Dickson, Joanne; MacLeod, Andrew. Brief Report Anxiety, Depression and Approach and Avoidance Goals. Cognition & Emotion. Vol 18(3), 2004, 423-430.
Senko, Corwin; Hulleman, Chris S.; Harackiewcz, Judith M. Achievement Goal Theory at the Crossroads: Old Controversies, Current Challenges, and New Directions. Educational Psychologist. Vol 46(1), Jan 2011, 26-47.