Planned Resolutions: meeting goals, rather than just making them

So often when we make resolutions to change our lives we fail to carry through on them. Setting a goal and telling ourselves we'll achieve it requires no sacrifice and feels good. It's the actual effort to achieve that requires willpower and sacrifice, so it shouldn't be a surprise that we set goals more often than we actually take significant steps towards achieving them. But another, important part of the story as to why resolutions are so often ineffective is that they often lack a plan. S...
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If That Didn’t Solve Your Problems, Try Something Else

One of the big challenges to self-improvement is getting yourself to try a new strategy instead of the same thing over and over again. If you already experimented with calorie counting diets four times, only to gain the weight back after a few months, you'll be very likely to gain the weight back again next time you try this type of diet. If you tried to get yourself to exercise by buying a monthly gym membership, but barely used the gym in six months, the fact that you have a gym membership pro...
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Predicting Using the Past

When we try to predict how long a task will take, we are in danger of falling prey to the planning fallacy. This is the natural human tendency to underestimate how long your own projects will take and the costs involved. To give one of many possible examples, when a group of students were asked to estimate how long their senior theses would take if everything went as poorly as it possibly could, the average estimate was about 49 days. In fact, the average time it took the students to complete t...
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Careful Analysis vs. Automatic Processing

Thinking very carefully about problems can be an extremely powerful way to answer questions or make predictions. But there are some problems for which our non-conscious processing systems produce superior results. Our non-conscious systems primarily work using pattern recognition. Through a combination of genetic pre-programming and repeated exposure, your brain learns to label instances of things in the world as "dangerous" or "not dangerous", "food" or "not food", "person" or "not person", ...
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Fighting Against Your Counterproductive Inclinations

Sometimes, in a given situation, what we feel like doing is precisely the opposite of what would be best for us. Our natural inclinations about what action is helpful in a given circumstance can lead us in entirely the wrong direction. Consider, for example, what happens when you feel tired. The obvious and natural thing to do is to lie down. This works well when there is time to sleep or nap. But what if you are feeling tired and should leave your house in 10 minutes? While lying down is wha...
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Planning Your Life Based on Your Ideal Ordinary Week

romantic couple eating ice cream at park
When people consider how they want their lives to be, they often think in terms of reaching specific milestones. They set goals like earning a certain amount of money, achieving a certain level of success at work, having a certain group of close friends, falling in love, getting married, having a spectacular wedding, having children, and being thought of as a good person. But milestones like these don't necessarily determine how much people enjoy their lives, how high their mood is on a regular ...
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