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How executive function skills can help you keep your New Year's resolutions

According to U.S. News, 80 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani suggests that the reason for this is two-part: Individuals do not have tools at their disposal to maintain motivation and they are unprepared when they encounter an obstacle. Try using the executive function tools below to overcome the aforementioned challenges.

Set a goal to work toward

It’s hard to stay focused and motivated if students aren’t sure how to envision getting to the end result. Have students imagine what a completed goal looks like; it can be as big as achieving a higher grade in Spanish or something as fundamental as staying more organized in Science.

Then, have students work backwards. What steps do they need to take in order to meet this goal? For example, in order to get a higher grade in Spanish, the student may need to:

  • Perform better on daily quizzes and monthly tests
  • Participate more often in class
  • Complete extra credit homework assignments

By laying out these specific steps, students can create a roadmap for how they get from where they are presently to their new goal. Using backward design can help students stay on track with smaller daily tasks. They can ask themselves “Is this task helping me achieve my greater goal?” if their motivation starts to wane.

But, they still need to identify how they’re going to accomplish these goals.

Schedule goals (and setbacks)

According to Luciani, when individuals change their routines and hit unexpected roadblocks, they can lose motivation. Executive functioning coach Maria Harlow offers a solution: Break down how students can meet their goals – and then schedule each task. Taking a moment to plan ahead for the day or the week can keep students organized, which is a critical tool to help them follow through on a task. Additionally, creating a schedule can help students maintain their motivation when they have an “off’ day.

Celebrate the small wins

When students complete all the tasks on their to-do lists, they should take a moment to celebrate! They are one step closer to achieving their goal. Harlow swears by a sticker chart to keep her students accountable. A sticker chart, at its core, is a way for students to keep motivated and stay focused, as they see how small, daily tasks can help them work toward larger goals.

A sticker chart isn’t the only way that students can hold themselves accountable. They can “check in” at the end of every week or use a to-do list that the can tick off when a task is complete.

With the right tools, students can reach their New Year’s goals. To help students start the New Year off right, contact Engaging Minds to schedule an appointment.

Engaging Minds Boston Learning and Tutoring Center
188 Needham Street • Suite 215 • Newton, MA 02464
190 N. Main Street • Natick, MA 01760
Tel: 617-964-3100 • info@engagingmindsonline.com

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