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Keeping Your Resolutions

David DeSteno, The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions, The New York Times, December 29, 2017

Social Emotions

Our tendency to be shortsighted — to value the pleasures of the present more than the satisfactions of the future — comes at a considerable cost. Surely by now you’ve heard of the psychologist Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiments, in which children who could resist the temptation to immediately eat one sweet would be rewarded with a second sweet about 15 minutes later. Professor Mischel found that those who could wait — those who had self-control — were also the ones who had better academic and professional success years later.

 

Through the WI Lens

This article is particularly important because it debunks the myth that willpower and self-control help us keep our resolutions. Over the past 30 years, a spate of academic studies have tried to persuade us that those who have “grit” are best positioned for success, but as the author of the article (a professor of psychology) shows, new research suggests that nothing could be further from the truth. To succeed in making the best decisions for ourselves (in terms of eating better, saving more money, working harder or whatever improves our sense of wellbeing), we should focus instead on qualities such as gratitude and compassion that nurture social bonds. The reason is this: these qualities help reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future; and in so doing they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves. This insight portends an important lesson for the hospitality industry: nurturing its employees’ ‘soft’ skills is one of the surest ways to improve staff retention and clients’ satisfaction. Empathy and compassion can be taught!

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