Magazine article Work & Family Life

An 'If-Then' Strategy Can Be Motivating

Magazine article Work & Family Life

An 'If-Then' Strategy Can Be Motivating

Article excerpt

A common list of New Year's resolutions may go something like this: "Eat less. Exercise more. Quit smoking. Lose weight." But that shorthand approach is too vague to be successful, says psychologist Peter Gollwitzer of New York University. Try instead to be more specific. For example: How much less will you eat and what will you eat? How will you exercise and how often?.

Dr. Gollwitzer has found this plan to be helpful when it comes to building good habits and resisting temptation. He calls it the "if-then" technique that states precisely: IfX happens, I will do Y.

So "eat less" might become something like "when the dessert menu arrives, I'll ignore it and order a cup of coffee." Or "exercise more" might become "I'll work out for an hour at the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before work."

In a review of 94 studies that used the if-then technique, Dr. Gollwitzer found that it worked two to three times better than when it was not used.

The approach is helpful for just about any goal you can imagine - from being a more positive thinker to using public transportation more frequently. …

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