This mental trick can help you accomplish your most challenging goals

Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and psychologist.
Photo: Mary R.

Have you ever set a difficult goal, like say, to exercise more frequently?

If you're like most people, you probably failed to accomplish it. Only nine percent manage to follow through on their New Years resolutions, according to a recent online survey of 1,100 people by Statista.

But according to Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, a simple mind trick can help you be more productive and remain motivated in the long-term.

Research he conducted alongside researchers Conor Artman and Aline Holzwarth suggests that having a motivating routine before starting a difficult task increases your chances of success.

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Ariely and his co-researchers conducted a survey of 800 people who use an app called Fabulous. All of the participants shared the goal of exercising more often but found it difficult to follow through.

The researchers directed participants to adopt a motivating pre-workout routine, such as stretching or practicing mindfulness, and continue it for multiple weeks. The majority of the survey's participants said they exercised more often and felt more motivated to continue doing so. Those who saw the highest success were the ones who designed their own inspiration routine.

Having a routine that you execute before starting a tedious task boosts your chance of finishing that task, according to the research.

This is why Tim Cook and other successful leaders wake up around 4:00 AM
This is why Tim Cook and other successful leaders wake up around 4:00 AM

While the experiment only dealt with fitness, establishing a pre-task routine could help motivate you to accomplish other difficult goals, such as working on a personal project every night or organizing your living space once a week. Habits, or routines, help people accomplish more, feel less stressed and become more financially stable.

"The next time that you want to motivate yourself to go for a run or pick up the weights," the researchers write in a press release, "try making up your own ritual that you perform every time you begin."

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