How to stick to New Year’s resolutions
People who care about their future selves are more likely to succeed at self-control
- Succeeding at personal goals, such as diet and exercise, can depend on how connected people feel to their future selves, according to Chicago Booth’s Oleg Urminsky and Daniel Bartels. They find that when people are prompted to care about their future selves and think about present-future trade-offs, they’re also likely to stick to their long-term plans.
- In one study, the researchers offered people a choice either to have one of two snacks, one with fewer calories than the other, or to forego a snack altogether. The participants were also asked about their weight. Those who were overweight chose, on average, lower-calorie snacks if they were prompted to feel highly connected to their future selves, and were reminded of the repercussions of unhealthy eating (see chart).
- That only overweight participants were affected by the prompts suggests that when people know something needs to change, such as body weight, being nudged to simultaneously think about it and care about the future self can shape their behavior.
- Similarly, in another study, the researchers find that overweight undergraduates who felt more connected to their future selves frequented the gym more often than those who felt less connected.