05 Jan Why New Year’s resolutions are so hard to keep – and how you can leverage Behavioural Economics principles to stay committed this year

It’s that time of year again when the gyms in January are full and the diets are approached with a renewed sense of commitment.

People pledge to read more books, learn a new language, travel to new places, volunteer, shop less, save more, waste less, sleep more, get up earlier, and make countless other changes in our behaviour.
Unfortunately, the principles of Behavioural Economics tell us that the bigger or loftier the resolution you set, the harder it will be to keep it. We know that as humans 95% of what we do is subconscious, often operating on autopilot, expending as little mental effort as possible. We have a series of biases and mental shortcuts that reinforce our existing, ingrained habits and behaviours and this makes big changes in our life tough to stick to. We also know that what we say we do versus what we actually do are two different things.
With this in mind, if you’d really like to keep some of your resolutions this year, here are a few tips based on Behavioural Economics principles that you can leverage to help set yourself up for success:

  • Use priming to trigger yourself to think about your resolutions (beyond the first week of January). Leveraging stimulus to create certain associations in your memory or to bring new things closer to the surface of your subconscious will provide frequent reminders of your goals. Examples of this could be strategically placing your trainers so you trip over them when you get out of bed in the morning or a post-it on your fridge to remind you every time you open it about your healthy eating commitments.
  • Make your resolution a default. Due to our human bias to prefer the current state of affairs and avoid unnecessary mental effort, if a particular decision or option can be presented as the default / status quo option it is most likely to be ‘chosen’. This could be applied to help you keep your resolutions. For example, only keep healthy food in the fridge and cupboard to avoid temptation, pre-program your GPS to direct you to the gym after work, or set your printer default to double-sided to waste less paper.
  • Reduce the commitment required. People are resistant to change that requires a conscious commitment as this will require extra effort which people are reluctant to expend energy on. By making smaller goals or masking the commitment required to keep them, your resolutions won’t seem so daunting. For example, instead of cutting out sweets altogether, swap them for lighter versions or smaller portions of what you normally buy. If you aren’t a seasoned runner, sign up for a friendly 5K run to start rather than trying to tackle a marathon.
  • Create immediate rewards for sticking with your resolutions. We know that people favour immediate rewards and benefits over ones that will arrive at some point in the future. In addition, the longer it takes to get the reward, the more we discount it. By rewarding yourself along the way, you are more likely to stay committed to your resolutions than waiting until the end of the year or after you have achieved your long term goal for a pay-off.
  • Leverage social support to help you stay on track. We all have a desire to be accepted by others and make the right decisions. As a result we look to people like us, to ensure we are acting in the right way. You can leverage this bias by finding a group of people like yourself (friends, family or colleagues) to have a similar or shared resolution to keep yourself on track. Alternatively, you could join a group or association with similar goals (like Weight Watchers or a volunteer organisation) to help keep you committed.

You’ll likely have some business goals for the New Year as well. When it comes to your consumers and customers, the same logic can be applied in terms of positively influencing them to exhibit the behaviours you desire in order to drive your business forward. To learn more about Behaviour Change Marketing at Triniti, get in touch with us this year (an easy resolution to keep!)