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Rethinking New Year's Resolutions

Jan 25, 2017
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How are those New Year’s resolutions going? We’re almost a month into 2017 and more than likely you started out with a new gym membership, perhaps a commitment to really clean eating, plans to spend less, etc.

How are those New Year’s resolutions going?

We’re almost a month into 2017 and more than likely you started out with a new gym membership, perhaps a commitment to really clean eating, plans to spend less, etc. All of these resolutions are positive but statistics from the University of Scranton show that just 8% of people succeed in achieving their New Year’s goals. I don’t share this to be discouraging but I do think it’s worth looking at what may be helpful in increasing your own odds of following through with your promises.

One common misconception is that you should announce your goals to family and friends to help with accountability and better your chances of actually doing what you set out to do. Many well-known diet and fitness programs use this mentality. Hmm, this could be all backwards!

You may be better off telling no one according to Joey Gochnour’s research on the “intention-behavior gap”. The fact is family and friends are not going to actually check in with you to make sure you’re training for that triathlon. But they will be impressed when you tell them of your plan to do one this year. Unfortunately when you receive that positive feedback, someone listening to you and nodding in approval, your brain interprets that as if you’ve already done it. You now have the identity of “someone who does triathlons” (or whatever your goal is) and thus have less reason to chase the good feeling by actually doing that thing.

Ayelet Fishbach, a behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago, tends to agree with this but adds that public commitments are not necessarily bad but they may limit you. "Public goal commitments tend to be very specific,” Fishbach says. There’s a chance people will actually follow through on that one goal but not do more than that. 

The key is to do what works for YOU.

We’re all very similar in some ways but in other ways people can be vastly different. Be wary of assuming everyone should be living by the same rules. If you’ve been doing New Year’s resolutions every year and every year it results in feelings of discouragement it may be time to rethink the “system”. Bill O’Hanlon wrote a whole book titled, “Do One Thing Different” to help interrupt patterns that aren’t working for you anymore. I encourage you to challenge your thinking in that you’re “just not as motivated as others” or you “simply lack good enough will-power”.

Look at the method you have set up for yourself and try changing it up to something that may just be a better way for you!

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