Dan Colman in Open Culture:
Making resolutions stick is tricky business. But it’s possible, and Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal has a few scientifically-proven suggestions for you.
For years, McGonigal has taught a very popular course called The Science of Willpower in Stanford’s Continuing Studies program, where she introduces students to the idea that willpower is not an innate trait. Rather it’s a “complex mind-body response that can be compromised by stress, sleep deprivation and nutrition and that can be strengthened through certain practices.” For those of you who don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can also find McGonigal’s ideas presented in a recent book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, which just came out in paperback yesterday. Below, we have highlighted 15 of Dr. McGonigal’s strategies for increasing your willpower reserves and making your New Year’s resolution endure.
1. Will power is like a muscle. The more you work on developing it, the more you can incorporate it into your life. It helps, McGonigal says inthis podcast, to start with small feats of willpower before trying to tackle more difficult feats. Ideally, find the smallest change that’s consistent with your larger goal, and start there.
2. Choose a goal or resolution that you really want, not a goal that someone else desires for you, or a goal that you think you should want. Choose a positive goal that truly comes from within and that contributes to something important in life.
3. Willpower is contagious. Find a willpower role model — someone who has accomplished what you want to do. Also try to surround yourself with family members, friends or groups who can support you. Change is often not made alone.