Good resolution(s) for 2021: how to take action?

At the beginning of this year 2021, I suppose that you, too, have defined a list of good resolutions! It is more or less long and your intentions more or less detailed. Whatever its form, this list brings together the few goals you have recently set for yourself, and that you wish to achieve during this new year. Undeniably, you seem motivated to change, but how can you guarantee that you're really going to do something about it? According to Heckhausen and Gollwitzer, two behavioural specialists, you need to take the time to think about how to do it (the "how").

Identify the reasons for your choices: the "why."

To begin, ask yourself if you want to achieve these goals for yourself (or for others), and visualize the benefits of doing so. This thinking will increase the value of some of your goals, and prioritize the goals you want to achieve for yourself, as they will then become intrinsically motivated. At this stage, the list of your good resolutions is certainly shortened... but that won't guarantee you'll take action.

As you know, we're cognitively limited. In other words, we can't really focus on different things at the same time, simply because we lack capacity. In fact, you can't act on all your different intentions simultaneously.

You have to choose! That is to say again prioritize the objective that is the most pertinent/urgent according to you. This so-called "deliberative" choice is a motivational reflection: by selecting the objective that seems the most important to you (in terms of impact for example), you sincerely answer the question "why".

You can also ask yourself to what extent you feel capable of achieving this goal (over x months for example): assessing your sense of capability can be more engaging if it is judged to be satisfactory when the goal in question seems difficult to achieve. Note that the harder the goal, the more you need to think about (which goal to adopt first and why). Conversely, the simpler the goals are to achieve, the less important and costly this deliberation will be for the cognitive system.

According to the 4 phases of action model, it is only then that you will be able to consider taking real action.

Visualize the strategies to adopt: the "how".

Until you are clear about the objective you want to attack first (and the "why"), you won't be able to think about how to get there. In other words, the "motivational competition" that takes place between your different intentions will hinder the emergence of volitional thinking. This reflection is necessary because it increases the likelihood that action will actually take place, focusing you on "how to get there".

According to thephases of action model, when you focus on the "how", you cross the Rubicon (a metaphor to illustrate the idea that you can' t go back, because it doesn't make sense to question the "why" anymore). You are then fully available at the cognitive level to take an interest in the strategies that will lead to action.

Also, there is a tendency to think that "the more goals you set, the more likely you are to be motivated to achieve them" but this is only true when they are complementary within themselves. Indeed, when they can be integrated into a single goal, they can form a more complete plan of action (for example, the intention to reduce one's consumption of soda and to drink more water). In this case, it is possible to develop a common action strategy, i.e. to reflect on the means of action (the "how") on all these objectives.

Also ask yourself who can accompany you in this change: choose someone who is close enough to you, who will not judge you and who is able to objectively evaluate your progress. This person will be likely to congratulate you but also to "reframe" you if necessary. Furthermore, by asking for help, you make your commitment public and this is a well-tried strategy for ensuring action.

In conclusion, I would say that making a list of good resolutions is good; but taking action to really achieve your goals is better! To situate yourself on your progress, choose an operational, objective measure: this will allow you to know where you are at, and if necessary to adjust the strategies you have put in place (the "how").

The eDoing Fifty solution solves the problem of taking action in company training and transformations. It recommends a personalised selection of micro-actions to each employee, guides them in their realisation thanks to behavioural sciences (the nudge) and measures the change. Our motto: Stop talking, start doing!



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Gollwitzer, P. M. (1990). Action phases and mind-sets. Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior, 2, 53-92.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting & task performance. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Soman, D., & Zhao, M. (2011). The fewer the better: Number of goals and savings behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(6), 944-957.