Choosing the Right Digital Tool to Make Your Resolutions Stick

By: David Nickelson

On average, every year over 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions with the vast majority being related to improving their health and well-being. While that’s great news, the reality is that as we move even further into the first month of 2016, only 8% of those resolution makers will still be working to meet their commitments after four weeks. An even lower percentage will actually achieve their final goal and fewer still will succeed at having the new habit replace the old for good.

Why? Because humans are creatures of habit. Habit makes our lives easier to manage, as we can go about our days without having to overthink every action or decision that we encounter. For most people, to successfully keep a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, eat right, or stop a bad behavior will require more than just making a promise to themselves – it will require establishing and maintaining high levels of motivation, ability and desire, all of which can be in short supply in our busy, hectic lives. Luckily, the convergence of a number of digital health tools, such as mobile platforms and wearables, are making efficient and effective behavior change easier, and might be just what you need to stay on (or get back on) track.

How do you pick the best digital tool for you? Ask these questions:

Does it measure your level of readiness? 
Research confirms that change only comes when you are really ready to change. The best digital tools will have a readiness assessment element built in, using a short survey or other measurement technique, it will determine how ready you are, or reveal what you may need to be ready.

Does it help set realistic goals? 
Studies have revealed that smaller, more realistic goals have a greater likelihood of success versus bigger, more idealistic goals. For example, a goal to “lose 5 pounds this year” is easier to visualize, achieve, and recover when you hit a setback than a goal to “lose 40 pounds in 6 months.” A good tool will use the information you provide, as well as scientific information about the change you want to make, to suggest personalized and achievable goals.

Does it break goals into small, achievable pieces? 
Research has shown that not only does confidence and motivation improve faster but long-term goals are easier to accomplish if they are celebrated step-by-step with each goal building on the previous. The program should suggest a series of steps to choose from and allow users to customize the steps to meet their lifestyle.

Does it help you recover quickly from setbacks? 
No one is perfect. The best digital tools recognize that even the most motivated and committed individuals can get off track. It’s important that the program provides a positive way to get back on track.

Does it provide information and support along the way? 
Everyone is different. Some individuals are motivated from within, wanting to learn everything they can on their own, and typically keep their goals or accomplishments private.  Others get their energy and motivation externally, learn better by talking to others, and gather strength and support by sharing. Whether you fall to one extreme or the other – or somewhere in the middle – the tool should allow you to access the information you need when you need it and provide you with the option to be part of a larger digital community both within the tool and on social media. Most individuals are as motivated by a combination of recognition and rewards. A good program will provide both – recognition when an individual has met a particular goal and rewards such as points, prizes or access to a new level of service or expert.

Does it build on your success? 
While research shows that it takes six to eight weeks for a behavior to become a new habit, research has also proven that it takes significantly longer, even up to six months, for a new habit to become an accepted part of an individual’s lifestyle.  A good program will provide ways to ensure that a new behavior is maintained, and will suggest new or next steps at the appropriate time.

Selecting a digital tool that answers all of these questions will ensure that you stay on track to keep your resolutions, and if needed, get you recommitted and ready to start again.

David Nickelson (PsyD, JD)

Director of Digital Strategy

David has worked in digital strategy and interactive design for over 19 years. Drawing on his skills as behavioral scientist and attorney, he applies an unique understanding of human behavior to regulated industries to create meaningful digital experiences that engage audiences, spur behavior change, and establish long-term relationships. An expert in digital strategy, marketing, and communications for health organizations, David is a frequently sought after consultant, panelist and speaker, lending his insights to commercial, nonprofit, and government audiences and clients alike.

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