With so many people recently making resolutions to improve their habits and lives, I wanted to know what makes it likely to actually achieve what you set out to do.

And I came across a great scientific study which shows how you can more than DOUBLE your likelihood of success.

And here’s the surprising part:

It is NOT about motivation

Watch the video above to find out more detail about this evidence.

And a big thank you to James Clear for originally bringing this scientific study to my attention. I am a subscriber to his insights and recommend you should follow him too.

How to more than double the chances of keeping resolutions

A groundbreaking study in 2002 looked to find out what people could do in order to motivate people to stick with an intention.

The researchers found 248 students who aimed to go to the gym and exercise.

The researchers then split them into three groups, and tracked how often they went to the gym in the following two weeks:

  1. Control Group: These participants were given on special instructions, and just noted how often they went to the gym
  2. Motivational Speech: This group also tracked their exercise, but also read motivational materials on the benefits of exercise, and listened to the researchers explain how exercise could reduce heart disease.
  3. Implementation Intention: This group got the same motivational materials and speech as the second group, but were also asked to plan how and when they would exercise. They did this by filling out the following sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”

At the end of the two weeks, the researchers tabulated how often on average the people visited the gym at least once a week, and the results are shown below:

Likelihood of achieving an intention (exercise) - Milne et al 2002

Likelihood of achieving an intention (exercise 1+ times a week over 2 weeks) – Milne et al 2002

As the results above demonstrate, the “Motivated” group had hardly any improvement over the Control group, being only 3% more likely to go to the gym but still significantly less than half of the participants did.

Or, as the researchers put it, Motivation … had no significant effects on exercise behavior.”

However, the group which planned out how and when they would work towards their intention achieved it 91% of the time.

I’ve said it multiple times before and I’ll say it again, just listening to motivational speaking does not result in any measurable change or value.

You need to focus on executing your ideas, and this simple trick helps a lot, and this has been confirmed in a meta-analysis of 94 similar studies.

Creating an Implementation Intention

Implementation Intentions can be incredibly useful for creators and innovators as well, since it is often incredibly challenging to find the time or focus to make executing our ideas a habit.

So how do you form an implementation intention of your own?

According to James Clear, a simple summary of an Implementation Intention is as follows:

“When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

So a simple way to form a plan of achieving your goals is by outlining how, when, where and in what situations you will do specific actions towards achieving it.

You can create a simple plan in the following format:


And in the situation that things do not go completely according to plan, it is ok as well.

For those situations, just plan out what response you will have to something that takes you away from achieving your goal, to get yourself back on track.

These can be summarised using an “If….then….” plan.

For example:

  • If I haven’t read 10 pages by 5pm, Then I will not turn on the TV at home until I do
  • If my meeting runs late and I can’t write tonight, Then I will wake earlier tomorrow and get it done before work
  • If I eat a donut at lunch, Then I will buy some fruit on the way home

So if you have an ambition or resolution on what you want to achieve in the coming month or year, putting together an implementation intention can make it significantly more likley that you will stick with it and achieve it.

If you know someone who would benefit from this insight to stick with a resolution they have, then please share this article with them.

What resolutions are you trying to achieve? Let me know in the comments below.



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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.