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New Years Resolutions - An Engineering Approach 144

Posted by timothy
from the slashcode-should-strip-colons-when-apropos dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Four out of five people who make New Year's resolutions will eventually break them and a third won't even make it to the end of January says the NY Times. But experts say the real problem is that people make the wrong resolutions. The typical resolution often reflects a general desire. To engineer better behavior, it is more productive to focus on a specific goal. '"Many clients make broad resolutions, but I advise them to focus the goals so that they are not overwhelmed," says Lisa R. Young. "Small and tangible one-day-at-a-time goals work best."' Here are some resolutions that experts say can work: To lose weight, resolve to split an entree with your dining partner when dining out. To improve your fitness, wear a pedometer and monitor your daily activity. To improve family life, resolve to play with your kids at least one extra day a week. To improve your marriage, find a new activity you and your spouse both enjoy such as taking a pottery class. On a lighter note: What was Steve Jobs' New Year's Resolution?"
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New Years Resolutions - An Engineering Approach

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  • by jacquesm (154384) <j.ww@com> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:15PM (#21875896) Homepage
    Is to make new years resolutions retrospectively.

    Those who have access to a time machine of course do not need this and can go about it the oldfashioned way.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:15PM (#21875900)
    The same resolution he makes every year, Pinky. TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!
  • by niceone (992278) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:21PM (#21875938) Journal
    I'm guessing 2560 x 1600.

    To lose weight, resolve to split an entree with your dining partner when dining out.
    Loose weight and look cheap at the same time, woohoo!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lars Clausen (1208)
      My now-wife and I actually did this back when we were still dating & in the US -- the portions there are just so fricking huge that we couldn't always finish them even when we split them. Loose weight and save money at the same time, woohoo!

      -Lars
      • No kidding ... as an American myself I have to say it's ridiculous. I'm sure it has to do with economies of scale: the greater the quantities they buy, the lower the unit price, and the greater their profits. Or maybe we just want to be fat, and they're only giving us what we want. Maybe both, I don't know.

        Does make it hard to keep trim though, if you eat out much.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Plaid Phantom (818438)
          My guess is that those restaurants want to be able to justify their prices, so instead of dropping prices to reflect the portions, they increase portions to match the prices, which probably makes them more money than otherwise. (As you said, economy of scale).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:26PM (#21876412)
      I resolve to teach slashdotters how to spell "lose".
  • by rbrander (73222) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:26PM (#21875996) Homepage
    OK, my New Year's Resolution is 1920x1200.

    I swear, no more fiddling around with 4:3 aspect ratios of the past. The CRT hits the junk pile in 2004, replaced by LCD, so help me.
    • And when you get that HDTV, just make sure you don't get any rhythm games that output in 480i, because the lag will make them unplayable because the upscaling is designed to make the picture look slightly better.
    • by Dzimas (547818)
      oddly enough, my new year's resolution is 1200 x 1920. I can't stand a wide but short monitor - completely inefficient use of space. The only thing it's good for is watching movies.
      • by jcgf (688310)

        The only thing it's good for is watching movies.

        That and for function calls with lots of arguments. I know I can split them over multiple lines, but I just don't like that.

        • If your function has that many arguments, you're already doing something wrong. Either the function is trying to do too many different things, or at least some of the arguments should be consolidated into structures.

          • by jcgf (688310)
            You seem to know a lot about code you've never seen.
            • by jcgf (688310)
              Besides, consider writing a BHO in C# with
              public static void OnBeforeNavigate2(object pDisp, ref object URL, ref object Flags, ref object TargetFrameName, ref object PostData, ref object Headers, ref bool Cancel)

              Sometimes you don't get to control how many arguements your functions take.

  • True (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s1d (1185389) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:29PM (#21876018) Homepage Journal
    I use the same approach. We work better with smaller goals, which can be quantified. Its easier to remain focussed on small goals which can be achieved quickly, rather than larger goals which may tend to overwhelm us and also may result in loss of motivation after a while. And the same approach can be used in many other areas, not just new year resolutions. Infact, I'd rather call it a good management approach than an engineering approach. *ducks for cover*
    • Re:True (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:40PM (#21876090) Homepage Journal
      Infact, I'd rather call it a good management approach than an engineering approach. *ducks for cover*

      I thought engineering was partly about breaking a problem down into smaller problems.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by s1d (1185389)
        I stand corrected. Perhaps this may actually fall in the mixed stream of "Engineering Management", involving elements from both Engineering and Management, yes?
        • I agree.

          There aren't many disciplines where the lessons learned can't be applied to other disciplines.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MoonFog (586818)
        And that can certainly be done with resolutions. Two years ago I vowed to lose a lot of the weight I put on while studying. I had a general goal set for June/July, but I always broke it down to every day and every week, counting calories and measuring weekly. Its difficult to see 6 - 7 months ahead, you "can always start later". But, by focusing on what I wanted to accomplish each week in order to reach my goal in July, it made it easier. The result: I lost 60 lbs from January to June.

        Granted, that is the o
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:33PM (#21876040)
    To improve marriage, people here need need to get a date first. That invovles getting a shave and getting rid of the ponytail. And getting rid of the same t-shirt that has been worn the last 40 days.

    No. slashdot is not going to give up on this by the end of January. They are gonna give up by the end of next week.
  • The easiest way to keep your New Years Resolutions are to start with a non issue. If you already go to the gym three days a week, make your resolution to get in shape. If you are 20 lbs underweight then make your resolution to not not get fat.
  • An Engineering Approach? Let me guess the same resolution as last year and all years past for that matter, talk to a woman this year
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:41PM (#21876092)
    To me, and this is probably the engineer in me speaking, the arbitrary designation of the end of the year as a time to make life adjustments is very odd. If there is a problem in your life or something that needs changing, it seems like you should work to correct that whenever you discover it. The big push for resolutions around new years seems counterproductive in that many people may wait to make changes until "the new year".

    It seems like personal growth should be a cycle of small, incremental improvements made throughout your life.
    • by cshake (736412)

      To me, and this is probably the engineer in me speaking, the arbitrary designation of the end of the year as a time to make life adjustments is very odd. If there is a problem in your life or something that needs changing, it seems like you should work to correct that whenever you discover it. The big push for resolutions around new years seems counterproductive in that many people may wait to make changes until "the new year".

      Exactly!

      The engineer in me also has a hard time with making wish lists for Ch

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Samgilljoy (1147203)

      To me, and this is probably the engineer in me speaking, the arbitrary designation of the end of the year as a time to make life adjustments is very odd. If there is a problem in your life or something that needs changing, it seems like you should work to correct that whenever you discover it. The big push for resolutions around new years seems counterproductive in that many people may wait to make changes until "the new year".

      Well, it's not entirely arbitrary or useless. The holiday season provides more free time to think about the things one needs to do. Setting an end-of-holiday start date also takes some of the guilt out of holiday gluttony. Since our culture represents a change of year as significant, even if nothing much actually changes, it's easy to align planned change of oneself with it (why not file away a bad habit or two with the records of paid invoices for 2007?). It's also easy to track how long you've been s

    • by sammy baby (14909)

      To me, and this is probably the engineer in me speaking, the arbitrary designation of the end of the year as a time to make life adjustments is very odd. If there is a problem in your life or something that needs changing, it seems like you should work to correct that whenever you discover it.

      That's certainly sensible, but that doesn't mean that you need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Many people find it useful to schedule periods of reflection and re-evaluation periodically: that concept is a

      • Many people find it useful to schedule periods of reflection and re-evaluation periodically

        I agree, as I do this myself. But I think that for lots of people that time is "The end of the year" and that is not really often enough.

        Other people have posted that the holidays are a time of contemplation. But is that really true? I find basically the whole month of December to be a terrible time for contemplation, because everyone (including yourself) is so busy with various activities and spending time with f
  • by pla (258480) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:45PM (#21876110) Journal
    I remember as a kid making New Year's resolutions, and forgetting about them usually before the end of the night.

    I don't think I've even bothered to make one for the past 15-20 years.

    So "scientific approach" to keeping them aside - Do people actually make resolutions they ever intend to keep, or do these just amount to 30 seconds of introspection to observe a flaw about yourself, only to forget it a few minutes later? Do you actually say to yourself, "This year, I will get that promotion", and mean it in any way more concrete than mere wishful thinking?
  • I once resolved never to make a New Years resolution again. Happily, I have yet to break it.
  • myminicity (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:01PM (#21876200)
    Kill anyone I meet who has a myminicity account.
  • by JLennox (942693) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:04PM (#21876232)
    If you're ordering food that can only be turned into a reasonable calorie count by cutting the serving in half, you have already lost. It's about not ordering that sort of food. Hell, 90% of the problem is ordering food to begin with. If you cooked it yourself, you could of tossed one less stick of butter into it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Torvaun (1040898)
      I have a job that requires me to travel a fair amount. The last thing I feel like doing is buying a few days worth of groceries so that I can cook in the hotel room. So, I eat out. Partial servings is a good way to spread out a steak across two meals instead of one, especially when an 8 oz steak might cost only a couple dollars less than a 16 oz steak, if the 8 oz is available at all.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:06PM (#21876242) Homepage Journal
    "Small and tangible one-day-at-a-time goals work best."

    You mean like: "Just try not to drink today"?
  • My new year's resolution is not to make a new year's resolution..

    now.. did i just break that resolution pre-emptively? or did I uphold it?

    I feel a disturbance in the slashdot.. as if a million heads swelled in pain, and were suddenly silenced!
  • by Captain DaFt (755254) <captain_daft@gma ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:08PM (#21876258) Journal
    So every year I resolve to be as evil and nasty as possible.
    That way not only does no one mind when I break my resolution, I'm encouraged to do so!
  • No offence, but it's mostly child-talk, what I read in the summary. Do you really think slashdot crowd is that stupid? Planning, achieving goals, time management is very important to all adult people. And they're usually good at it, that's why they're called adults. For kids out there article doesn't help anyway, because it's just a bunch of pre-canned orders. Embarrassing.
    Please don't let slashdot to become another "Cosmopolitan" or "Men's health".
    We value scientific and system approach here, not some ligh
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy&tpno-co,org> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:10PM (#21876276) Homepage
    "Make no more silly resolutions just because a calendar # changes"

    Still holding it.
  • Sticking to small-scale, well-defined goals ("limited and achievable objectives") is definitely the way to go, in my experience.

    I was, for a few years, a volunteer training coach for a couple of the US AIDS Rides (Boston->New York by bicycle, for example). Everyone has heard people make grand resolutions about getting into, or back into, shape; these resolutions often don't amount to much. We asked people to make an initial commitment to a training program of about 6 weeks, and that worked out pret

  • To improve your marriage, find a new activity you and your spouse both enjoy such as taking a pottery class

    Gee, now where on earth did that spooky tip come from *cough*Ghost*cough*

    Yeesh...where do they dig up these 'experts'?

  • After this New Years party, my only resolution is "stay away from hard liqour, especially vodka". Maybe in a few hours I can stop thinking about alcohol again and come up with some more interesting resolution.
  • by frankenheinz (976104) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:27PM (#21876422)
    I always resolve to not start smoking crack. (So far I'm batting 1000.)
    • I always resolve to not start smoking crack. (So far I'm batting 1000.)

      Let me guess, you don't get mod points here very often. :)

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:28PM (#21876430)

    To improve your marriage, find a new activity you and your spouse both enjoy such as taking a pottery class
    Since this should be filed under the heading "stereotypical things you wife wants you to do" cross referenced under the heading "Taking one for the team."

    Instead how about...

    ..Watching one WWE wrestling event together per week.

    ..Being able to veto watching "When Harry Met Sally".

    ..Not having to have a 'deep meaningful discussion about your feelings' during the superbowl.

    Go ahead mod me "-1 Troll, Sexist Pig".

    • New year's resolution: resist the urge to mod troll when begged for. Time now, 21:43. Woohoo - record time for resolution breaking.
    • ..Watching one WWE wrestling event together per week.

      I thought WWE fans couldn't marry in most states.

      (rimshot)

      Thank you! I'll be here all week!

      But... seriously. WWE? Never understood how that was supposed to be a manly thing to watch. It's a bunch of almost naked steroid mutants groping one another. Some of them wear rhinestones and shiny little shorts.

      How about a one of those chopper/muscle car building shows or "rebuilding your home atom by atom from the ground up" shows? Something with hammers and saws
    • Not all people are violent barbarians, some of us males enjoy pottery and 'sissy' things.
  • by Zadaz (950521) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:37PM (#21876516)
    All I hear is "Loose weight", "Spend more time with my depressing spouse", "Spend more time at the depressing gym."

    Well of course no one keeps those. Who wants to do that crap?

    Why not resolve to do something you'll enjoy.

    Resolve to have more and better sex than last year.
    Resolve to earn more for less work than last year.
    Resolve to find something new that makes you laugh.
    Resolve to cross more things off your "Before I Die..." list.
    Resolve to spend less time around people you don't like.

    And it just might turn out that you're spending time enjoying your life that a lot of the other things take care of themselves.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > All I hear is "Loose weight",

      I bet you've never heard that in your life.
    • I resolve to spell properly.
    • Lose weight, spend more time with your spouse, and more time at the gym (with your spouse if possible) and the chance of having more and better sex will improve.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Lose weight, spend more time with your spouse, and more time at the gym (with your spouse if possible) and the chance of having more and better sex will improve.

        Yeah, but the "spouse" constant there sort of torpedoes the whole equation. Make it a variable and you're on to something.

        I'm not married, BTW. Just basing this on my observations of married friends.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Farmer Tim (530755)
      Resolve to cross more things off your "Before I Die..." list.

      If you make dying the priority you can cross the rest off at once (nothing personal, just pointing out the efficient route).
    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @09:50PM (#21878488)
      --- Resolve to have more and better sex than last year.

      That gets expensive. Does't matter if it's a S.O. or prostitutes, either.

      --- Resolve to earn more for less work than last year.

      Not sure I can optimize that one any further without my bosses catching on.

      --- Resolve to find something new that makes you laugh.

      I just turn on the news every evening. There's new hilarity every day. And it's an election year!

      Helps to be a misanthrope, I guess.

      --- Resolve to cross more things off your "Before I Die..." list.

      But I can't get Jennifer Connelly to return my calls, much less agree to what's on my list.

      --- Resolve to spend less time around people you don't like.

      Well now I'd have to leave the planet. I'm a skeptic, but I do follow major UFO sightings with interest. No real luck yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ZorbaTHut (126196)
      I resolve to spend more time at the fun gym. I don't know why everyone always chooses the depressing one.
  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:40PM (#21876536) Homepage Journal
    I've been studying this very subject heavily for the past 18 months or so.

    We now know a great deal about how the mind works and have applied it to the general subject of "becoming a success". Being successful always involves explicitly setting goals, and this can be done with New Years' resolutions SO LONG AS they are done correctly.

    I'm boiling the issues down to a few simple facts, but they are all verified by psychological studies and have their basis in well-known underlying mechanisms. It all comes from your Reticular Activating System, which is a part of your brain that is involved with setting goals (I'm simplifying).

    1) Don't make resolutions, set goals. Pick the major areas of your life (personal, work, relationship, church, community) and write down things that you'd like to achieve in the upcoming year.

    2) Resolutions need to be written down. No one has explained why writing is needed, but it works. Lots of studies have shown this. (Maybe it's because wirting things activates all areas of your mind at once: you "say" it in your mind while writing it, you see it, you write it, &c).

    3) Resolutions must be personal. Use "I" when writing them (as in "I read 15 books by year's end").

    4) Resolutions must be positive. If you say "I stop smoking" or "I stop chewing my nails", it won't work. The RAS only deals with positive commands, and not negative ones. To deal with biting your nails, write "I notice every time I bring my fingers to my mouth" or something, and then stop yourself at those times.

    5) Resolutions must be in present tense. Write "I earn $80K a year", not "I earn $80K by the end of the year".

    6) Where possible, resolutions should be measurable. If you want to lose weight, say "I weigh 175 pounds".

    7) Resolutions should be reasonable. Don't say "I earn a million dollars a year", take your salary, add 20% and write "I earn XXX a year".

    The more specific and detailed you are, the greater likelyhood that the goal will happen. Want a new car? Write down the make, model, color, options, and everything else you can think of.

    Once you have your goals written out, occasionally look at them. Once a week or more will really drive the message home to your subconscious.

    People who do this are generally amazed at the results. It's making use of existing well-known mechanisms in your mind, but we've only recently discovered how to make use of them.
    • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:59PM (#21876686) Homepage Journal
      Before some psych major posts about how the RAS isn't involved with goals, let me clarify.

      The Reticular Activating System (RAS) decides what is "important" to your conscious mind.

      As you read this, you can feel the weight of the chair on your legs, feel the clothes on your shoulders, see the wall beyond the monitor, and hear the backgound noise. You can feel your breathing, and if you concentrate you can maybe hear your heart beat.

      None of this information makes it to your consious mind because the RAS steps in and says "this isn't important to me". You don't notice the feel of your pants clinging to your leg, but if a bug started crawling up your leg the RAS would go nuts bringing it to the attention of your mind.

      The interesting thing about the RAS is that we can tell it what is important. Once we decide on a goal, anything that reasonates with that goal will be allowed through to our conscious minds.

      Day by day we are awash in possibilities that we pay no attention to. Once we set a goal and let the RAS know what's important, these possibilities start to come through to the conscious mind and we find that by exploring more and more possibilities, eventually we get to our goal.

      People who set and write down goals comment on how "magical" this all appears. Almost as if there is some force in the universe that is coming to their aid. Suddenly, someone mentions that their son is selling his car and it happens to be the exact make, model, and price you were hoping for.

      Of course, the possibilities were there *before* you set your goals as well - you just didn't notice them. Some people have suggested that this is how prayer works.

      Whatever the underlying reasons, writing down goals seems to work. It's how people people get to be extremely successful in whatever area they choose.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sapphon (214287)

        As you read this, you can feel the weight of the chair on your legs ...

        My New Year's resolution: learn how to sit on a chair properly.
         
  • Again this year I have resolved to resist the incessant whining of the teetotaller in the next office, and continue to support several microbreweries in the most tangible possible way.
  • GTD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ckolar (43016) <chris.kolar@org> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:51PM (#21876618) Homepage Journal
    Is this really an engineering approach, it looks like the David Allen's "next tangible step you can take the physical world" approach. I am one of those people who found Getting Things Done life changing.
  • I made a resolution to learn some new languages. I happened to make Lisp my first choice, and I'm surprised by how smoothly it's going.

    There's a really basic tool I've written in a number of languages before as a first project type exercise. It parses a series of command line options and interprets them in a getopts fashion. In Java, I split the problem into three classes, each consisting of about 100 lines of code on average. It wasn't particularly flexible, and specifying and interpreting the options wa

  • by Anonymous Coward
    New Year's resolutions are a crock. It's the same thing as telling yourself on a Friday that "Monday I'm going to start a diet", or "Monday I'll stop smoking", etc. If you realize on a Friday that you need to make a change, you either make that change Friday, or it's not going to happen. If you couldn't make something happen in September, October, November, AND December, pushing the Easy Button Dec 31 isn't going to magically transform your life Jan 1.

    The thing is, people don't make "resolutions" - they mak
  • by Anonymous Coward

    To improve your fitness, wear a pedometer and monitor your daily activity.
    I tried wearing a pedometer. It didn't improve my fitness, just confirmed I was a lazy slob.
  • Screw the calendar (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995)
    If it is worth changing, it is worth changing right away. General directions are usually just as good as specific goals too.
  • 12:02AM. "This is the year, dammit. I am going to lose some fucking weight!"

    12:05AM. "Hey dude, you want some of this German Chocolate Cake?"

    12:06AM. "Damn, maybe next year. This is some fuckin good cake, man."

  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @07:52PM (#21877834) Journal
    1) Stop hanging around slashdot.

    2) Move out of my damn basement.

    3) Get a date.
  • While I feel like small, easily measurable, attainable goals are good, I think the exact opposite can work, too - resolve something general that can be a bunch of different things and is something that even if you don't totally achieve, you can at least make progress towards. And rather than being something you can put off, or start to fail at or give up on, it should be something that if you have a bad day, week, or month, you just pick up where you left off. Losing weight, getting in shape, healthier eat
  • I resolve to stop posting to Slashdot and- DAMMIT!
  • If an alien came to my planet and asked me why the fellow members of my species observe holidays and attach significance to numbers in a calendar system, I would truthfully reply "I have no idea, bro".

  • by tuxette (731067) *
    To lose weight, resolve to split an entree with your dining partner when dining out.

    How about not going out to eat at places that serve crap food in oversized portions in the first place? Or just ordering a salad with dressing on the side?
  • Eat a new species of animal.

    So far I'm 3/3 on it (boar, elk, alligator).

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