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Description: So why do we make New Year’s resolutions? We typically don’t stick to them and yet the beginning of a new year, a birthday, or even just a start of a new month are all possible times we might decide that we need to change. Why is that?

Source: Can Psychology Teach us How to Stick to Our New Years Resolutions? NPR, All Things Considered

Date: December 21, 2015


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According to the researchers interviewed in this National Public Radio story New Year’s Day is one of a number of what might be referred to as temporal markers. Such markers are used by individuals as possible points at which they’re going to endeavor to change some aspect of themselves or their behaviour, hopefully for the better. Essentially what people are doing is imagining a future self that is going to be better than a current self and then they’re committing to work towards becoming that better self. Rather than feeling badly about resolutions that you don’t stick with, researchers have suggested that picking a temporal landmark and then setting one sites on a better version of oneself actually helps us to change our behaviour and positive ways. So we won’t always be successful but we will do better than if we decide at the outset the change is not going to work. Give this article a listen and then decide whether you want to make any New Year’s resolutions.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the role played by temporal landmarks such as New Year’s Day in our ongoing efforts toward self-improvement?
  2. How effective have your experiences with resolutions at various temporal landmark points in your life been?
  3. What sorts of things should we do in order to increase the likelihood that will be at least somewhat successful in attaining the sorts of behaviours contained within a resolutions for personal change?

References (Read Further):

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563-2582.

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). Put your imperfections behind you: Why and how meaningful temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Available at SSRN 2420476.

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2015). Put Your Imperfections Behind You Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings. Psychological science, 0956797615605818.