Resolution Solution: Setting (and Achieving) Goals

Published on January 12, 2018

January is the time of year when many of us set intentions, make goals or resolutions, and otherwise make attempts to start anew. But what has been shown to actually work, to transform good intentions into tangible results?

Bauer College of Business Professor Vanessa Patrick, Ph.D., has published a wealth of research over the years that unlocks the key to that question. A leading consumer psychology expert Patrick’s research-based strategies have the potential to help individuals accomplish what they set out to do in 2018 – whether it’s getting fit, finishing a book manuscript, or achieving a sales goal.

  • Say “I don’t,” rather than “I can’t.”

Relying on this simple phrase can make turning down requests that take you off track easier, according to a 2012 investigation of how self-talk works for and against us in the attempt to resist temptation.

  • Postpone temptation.

While conventional methods of resisting temptation have focused on harnessing willpower, abstinence and denial, a study Patrick co-authored in 2016 found postponing the behavior worked better.

Instead of responding with an outright “no” to an invitation that has the potential to impede goals, frame the response as something you can do at a later date, and keep the plans for doing so intentionally fuzzy.

  • Embrace and enjoy the simple pleasures in daily life.

Patrick and her colleagues show that recognizing, experiencing and embracing simple pleasures in daily life can keep us on track to achieve personal and professional goals and help to offset small annoyances.

  • Surround yourself with the kinds of things that help you feel like you can conquer the world.

Patrick’s research has shown how consumers use items ranging from apparel to kitchenware to create and sustain identities according to culturally embedded archetypes.

“Brands symbolically reinforce the heroic archetype and provide a means for externalizing control over unwanted circumstances and encumbering counterforces,” Patrick and co-author Candice Hollenbeck, Ph.D. found in a published research paper concerning female cancer survivors.