Lose weight and get fit!
Eat healthier and diet.
Get out of debt and save money!
According to Time, these are five of the top 10 most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions.
Soooooooo…have you complied your list of New Year’s resolutions yet?
Before you do, allow yours truly to avail you of some pertinent, rather “innerestin’” facts!
Fifty percent of all Americans make at least one New Year’s resolution. But here’s the Big Q (question): how many of us actually make it past the finish line?
Psychologist and researcher Richard Wiseman tracked the success of 3,000 individuals’ New Year’s resolutions. And, what did he find?
That only a mere 12 percent of them managed to achieve what they had set out to do.
Well, according to author Ray B. Williams, “Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of ‘cultural procrastination’, an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.”
Williams adds, “Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.”
This striking failure rate can also be anatomical. According to author Leo Widrich, willpower is required if we are to adhere to our resolutions. “Your brain cells that operate willpower are located in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area right behind your forehead. That particular area of the brain is also responsible for staying focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract tasks for example.”
Hence, when you make a New Year’s resolution, an enormous degree of willpower is required. “It’s an amount that your brain simply can’t handle,” Widrich explains. He adds that the prefrontal cortex that handles will power is “like a muscle that needs to be trained.”
So then: just how you stick to your resolution(s)? Widrich reveals how.
Pick only one resolution. “As Stanford’s (University) Prof. (Baba) Shiv explained with his ‘cognitive overload’ experiment, sticking to more than one New Year’s Resolution is near impossible for your brain to handle. Instead…pick the one thing that’s most important for you. Then, let go of everything else.”
Take baby steps—make it a tiny habit. “Now that you’ve picked one resolution, make sure to break it down as far as you can, to the simplest task possible.”
Hold yourself accountable for what you want to change: tell others or write it down. “The people around you can have a significant impact on your behavior. So if you tell some of your friends and family about the new tiny habit you’ve created, you are much more likely to stick to it.” Widrich adds, “Another hint here is that writing it down not only makes you more likely to succeed with your new habit and on top of that, increases your overall happiness.”
Focus on the carrot, not the stick—positive feedback and rewards increase your chance of success. “A powerful study from the University of Chicago outlines how clearly positive feedback on any of your new habits will increase the likelihood of your success with your new habits and resolutions.” Adds Widrich, “Treating yourself to an unhealthy snack after a few days of successful diet habit changes is more than appropriate if you really want to make it through the other end.”
Now that you’re locked, loaded and ready, make that resolution—or resolutions!
And stick to it—or them!
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