Cass academic reveals the secret to success.

Published (Updated )

According to motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins, 80 per cent of us ditch our New Year’s resolutions by February. If this sounds familiar, then don’t worry – help is at hand from Professor André Spicer, Cass Business School.

Professor Spicer is a man who knows something about self-improvement. As the co-author of Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimisation Movement, he recently spent a year investigating self-optimisation, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us by being merely human, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.

He learned a few things about setting, keeping, and succeeding with goals along the way.

“On New Year’s Day millions of us commit to changing our lifestyle, whether that is to stop smoking or lose weight. When we inevitably break our resolution, we experience a sense of relief or even enjoyment. Shortly afterwards however, a sense of guilt kicks in,” he said.

Professor Spicer said New Year’s resolutions can create a self-destructive cycle.

“We start to define who we are through our lifestyle choices. The commitment to improve our lifestyle is a tragic attempt to improve ourselves. They can often leave us more unhappy and unhealthy than before we made them,” he said.

However, Professor Spicer said there are ways that people can succeed with their resolutions – and specificity; support; routine; humour; and resting are the key to success.

Top five tips for success

Here he offers his top five tips for keeping on track with your resolutions - whether you’re trying to cut down on your chocolate consumption, take up running or master a new skill.

1. Specificity

“Decades of research tells us that having specific goals which stretch us a bit - but not too much - leads to higher performance. This is because we tend to be more persistent with specific goals. We are also more inventive - exploring other options of how to achieve them when we hit roadblocks.”

2. Support

“Relying on your own willpower will probably lead to failure. We do better when we have commitments to others so get a buddy or someone else who will hold you to account.”

3. Routine

“Research on high performers show they practice for a set numbers of hours each day. Great writers usually have a set routine of writing for a few hours each day. So set aside some time to pursue your goal each day and make it a routine.”

4. Humour

“Often we face limitations and failures. You need to know how to laugh at your own mistakes, but then step back, see your mistakes and learn from them.”

5. Resting

“To pursue goals, you need to take time out. We know people who work very long hours are not as productive as those who work for eight hour days. So stopping for a rest every now and then is just as important as having a good routine.”

Read more about Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimisation Movement here.

André Spicer is Professor at Cass Business School, City, University of London and the co-author or co-editor of five books. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Financial Times, Times, Independent and CNN. His most recent books are Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimisation Movement, with Professor Carl Cederström and Business Bullsh*t.

Professor André Spicer

Related schools, departments and centres