According to a study by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, only 22% of us have managed to keep our New Year’s resolutions. In other studies, I’ve seen that number as low was 8%. Whether it’s hitting the gym, changing our diet or kicking bad habits, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, our success rate is alarming low.
But Wiseman’s team doesn’t stop there and asks the all-important question, “Why?” Why are so many people unable to keep their resolutions?
For the 78% of people that didn’t stick to their resolutions, the study found common themes. These individuals:
- Focused on the downside of not achieving their goals,
- Suppressed cravings,
- Adopted a role model,
- Or relied on willpower alone.
The individuals that stuck to their resolutions, on the other hand, tended to:
- Break their large goals into small steps and create small changes that, over time, added up,
- Celebrate their milestones,
- Share their goals with friends (for additional accountability),
- Focus on the benefits of success (i.e., how their resolution would improve the quality of their life),
- Keep a diary of their progress.
Following the above strategies increases the probability of success to a whopping 50% – and it speaks to the necessity of creating a do-able, realistic plan and the importance of internal motivation, rewards and external accountability.
Of course, if you don’t stick to your resolution, I wouldn’t view it as failure. Doing so, as Wiseman notes, “is often psychologically harmful because it can rob people of a sense of self control.” Instead, it’s wiser to view our missteps are learning experiences. If you try to build muscle, for example, and don’t – well, then you know you need to use a different approach. After all, failure isn’t falling down – it’s staying down.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012!