Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail? The Psychology Explained

Why New Year's Resolution failed

It’s that time of the year again when we take stock of the year that’s now behind us and are ready to turn over a new leaf. The start of a New Year seems to be the perfect time for making goals and resolutions, which we call New Year’s Resolutions.

But why so many people fail to accomplish those resolutions?

Facts and Figures

First, let’s the figures speak their own words. You will have the overview of New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions Statistics
Statistics on how many Americans make New Year’s resolutions and how many Americans keep their New Year’s resolutions for the entire year. Not that many people succeed at keeping their New Year’s resolutions! (Source: the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology)

According to the statistics, 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, giving up smoking, better money management, which accounts for over 145 million people, big amount right?

However, accomplishing those resolutions is a completely different story. Half of these people keep it to the June and just 8% of them are able to achieve their resolutions.

Why do so many people fail at keeping their resolutions? Are they just unwilling or lazy? Not that simple.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, resolutions are considered as a form of “cultural procrastination”, an effort to reinvent oneself. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. (Psychology Today)

People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves

Then, stop a second and forget about that abstract “cultural procrastination”. Is there any reason why people tend to choose the New Year Event as the perfect time to change all of their habits and create goals? What is special about New Year event?

Simple answer, the word “new” in “new year” represents the change, which forces people to act as they have to change their lives in that one day out of 365 days. The truth is, people are not ready to change anything, they just make the resolutions as motivation to change.

Psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues have identified what they call the “false hope syndrome,” which means

Their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves

This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem and then you revert back to old behaviors. (Psychology Today)

Motivation needed to perform a habit
Source: James Clear

The most common mistake is that people usually choose to make a very big change to their habits or they want to achieve too many goals at one time. The motivation needed for changing a habit is inversely proportional to the percentage of habit change achieved.

To put it simple, changing a small percent of your habits requires a drastic amount of motivation. You shouldn’t set the goals too high or too many at one time. Be patient and make a step by step plan.

How to make and keep your New Year Resolutions?

Why New Year's Resolutions Fail?
How to stick to your New Year Resolution?

Here are some tips that make you successfully achieve your New Year’s Resolutions:

Choose the right and specific goals

While making New Year’s resolutions, realistically prepare beforehand for time and effort commitment and check all the factors that are mentioned above.

In addition, it is prime to set specific goals. “Exercise more” or “Lose weight’ is a classic example of bad resolution. Your resolution should be like — Loose 15 pounds in four months. Set realistic goals that are in line with your overall lifestyle and occupation.

Make a detailed plan and backup plan

It might sound complicated but you need to do much research about what you’re are going to do or to change. For example, if you choose to quit smoking, you’ll need a lot of instruction and information to prepare for it. Use books or internet.

Enough research will help you to make a change. Besides, you need to get everything ready to make sure your plan will run smoothly. If you take up running every day. You’ll need clothes, shoes, hat, iPod. Then there you go.

One more crucial plan is the backup plan. Because there are going to be many problems cropping up in progress, you need to anticipate and find the way to cope with them.

Don’t wait till New Year’s Eve to make resolutions

As stated previously, you may not be ready to change in New Year’s Eve. However, you can do it whenever you feel ready for it and make it a year-long process, every day.

Reward yourself weekly for achieving your goal.

You don’t have to wait until the completion of your goal to celebrate. Reward yourself weekly, monthly something that you’ll look forward to, to recognize your effort and motivate yourself to do it even better. You deserve it and you’ll earn it.

Accept failure

It’s the key to be patient and consistent to go through failure. If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning, don’t hate yourself for it. Therefore, make a note of the triggers that caused this setback and vow to learn a lesson from them.

Here are some explanations and recommendations for you to make a perfect New Year’s Resolutions and stick to them. I wish you best of luck in the new year.

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