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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 1

Meet Your Goals with Research-Proved Tips and Techniques

Forming new habits that last requires setting realistic expectations



Illustration by Matt Vincent

Have you already abandoned your New Year’s resolution? No need to feel ashamed. Fully a quarter of the people who make resolutions give up by the end of the first week, with many others falling off the wagon in the months to come. It seems to be human nature to aim high and fall short.

Whether attempting to exercise more regularly, cut back on impulse buying or simply keep a tidy desk, anybody who has tried changing a long-standing habit knows how frustratingly hard lasting change can be. But why is it so difficult, despite our good intentions? What do those few who succeed know that the rest of us do not?

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