The University of Law to launch UK first human rights scholarship with the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Find out more
Conflict in Israel and Gaza – support for students. Find out more


Does manifesting work? Psychologist reveals how to help make your resolutions stick

Mark Jellicoe, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Law, shares evidence-based techniques that could help you achieve your 2023 goals.

Just one in five people made a resolution for 2022[1], while online searches for “manifesting” grew by a huge 177% between Christmas 2021 and the first week of January 2022[2].

In fact, thanks to its boom in popularity as a TikTok trend in 2019, manifesting quickly became the go-to motivational technique – online searches have grown by 165% since December 2019[3].

So, could this trend really replace the tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution? And how can we really make those goals stick for 2023, once and for all?

Mark Jellicoe, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Law, explains: “Resolutions, or goals, are like alchemy. There are many reasons why we fail to achieve our resolutions. Often goals can be too vague, or, in reality, the resolution might be a wish that we are just not that committed to.”

Here, Mark sets out his evidence-based approach to ensuring those resolutions stick in 2023:

  1. Manifesting is no magic bullet

Some may be sad to hear this, but I’m not aware of any direct evidence to suggest manifesting will help to achieve a goal. However, several supported scientific approaches, which could be ascribed to the “manifesting” approach.

It makes sense that if we orient ourselves towards an outcome then we might be more motivated to achieve it, which would invoke the patterns of thinking and behavioural beliefs to help us do this. When we are considering a vision we that we have for ourselves we likely need to get tactical about the goals we seek to achieve; the science of goal-setting may help with this.

In short, don’t abandon all hope if you feel manifesting works for you, just be sure to back it up with some solid goal setting practice – manifesting isn’t a magic bullet.

  1. Be careful who you tell

It can be tempting to tell everyone you meet in the new year about a new goal you’ve put in place, especially if it is a particularly exciting one. There are some schools of thought that suggest speaking your goal out loud or sharing it with others creates a sense of accountability. However, there is growing evidence that would suggest doing this can be detrimental.

Scientific evidence also suggests that the mere act of telling someone about our goal, and the congratulations or encouragement we receive, might lead to us deceiving ourselves that we have already achieved the goal, and as a result, we fail to move to the implementation stage. This has led to some advising that we don’t tell others our goals.[4]

  1. Get serious about goal setting

Despite humans being innately goal-directed, we are often quite bad at the deliberate mechanics of goal setting; even when we want to achieve the outcome. During implementation, we often fail to control ourselves or recognise opportunities to carry the resolution out.

There are a couple of solid, research-backed approaches to goal-setting. Many of us will have heard of the SMART approach, which encapsulates some of these key ideas, where goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. This isn’t a bad place to start, but there are arguments that even well-set goals may not lead us to strive towards the outcome.

This is where the WOOP model could be useful (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan)[5]. This approach encourages us to think about the reality of our situation and the likely obstacles that come between us and our ultimate goals, so we can plan ways to overcome them. Pairing this with the SMART approach so you can monitor your progress could lead to success.

  1. Your personality type matters

As with goal setting, strong evidence exists about personality types. Many years of scientific research suggests five well-supported ‘factors’. Using the acronym OCEAN; these are Openness to experience; Conscientiousness; Extraversion; Agreeableness and Neuroticism (or now often ‘low emotional stability’)[6].

This is a vast topic with lots to explore, but one example would be those who are more conscientious typically tend to be more planful and organised – naturally this often leads to a higher likelihood of seeing goals through. This same personality, however, may also be more likely to stick with a goal even when circumstances change that make that goal no longer relevant.

You can gain an understanding of your personality type easily enough online[7], and this understanding could give you a good grounding in learning how to adapt your strategies.

  1. Set small clustered goals

Try to move away from thinking some resolutions are good and others aren’t. Of course, some may fail for some of the reasons we’ve said – this doesn’t mean they are inherently bad.

Regardless of the resolution you set yourself, achieving small clustered goals along the way could be crucial in building confidence and motivation to keep working towards your desired outcome.

The Couch to 5K challenge is an excellent example of this method. This approach uses a nine-week programme, setting small goals along the way before you’re eventually running a 5k with little thought.

Often this approach to goal-setting can have a positive upward spiral into other areas of our lives too, such as health and wellbeing.

Mark continues: “This time of year can be stressful for so many of us, and we all have our own reasons for that. Any milestone event can bring about a mixture of positive and negative emotions.

“Like with any milestone, think birthdays or anniversaries, the new year can also be a time for reflection and renewal. At this time of year, many of us also have the time and space to engage in reflection, so it might be a good time to reflect, accept and move forward.

For more information about psychology courses at ULaw, visit: