New year’s resolutions? Bah! Here’s a better idea for writers

Set up if/then statements. Contingency plans remove guesswork and eliminate the nebulous element of willpower.

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It’s resolution season.

New year’s plans seem to lurk in blogs like dangerous creatures in swamps, but not here. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, mainly because they don’t seem to work.

Although 45 percent of Americans make such promises to themselves, fewer than 8 percent manage to keep them. Don’t let the statistics depress you—or, worse, don’t think you’ll be part of the tiny minority who can overcome them. Instead, concentrate on something more positive and useful.

This relates to a little nugget I hid in a post last year when I wrote a guide on reducing writing stress. It derived from a notion from psychologist Peter Gollwitzer. His idea: if/then statements. As an authority on goals, Gollwitzer encourages us to talk to ourselves in the following way:

This kind of planning, which allows us to consider contingencies (when things go wrong or sort of wrong) is brilliantly effective. As soon as we make the statement, our brain automatically starts checking the environment.

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