For many people, the New Year is a time to reflect and make resolutions to improve some aspect of life. Common resolutions involve losing weight, eating healthier, exercising more, getting organized, spending less, saving more, improving communications, quitting smoking, and drinking less alcohol, just to name a few. Despite good intentions, many people do not stick to their resolutions for terribly long – a recent stat from the University of Scranton indicates that only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolutions!
A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article on the science behind the high failure rate of resolutions. The article, “Blame it on the Brain” (clever headline!), discusses the effect stress has on willpower and self control. It theorizes that when you have a lot of things going on in your life, your energy is spent on those activities and you have less energy to exert willpower. Their theory explains why, after a long day at work, we are more likely to give in to our vices – whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol or food!
Understanding factors that could sabotage your success can help you overcome the temptation to break your resolution. Some other tips for success are:
- Share your resolutions with a friend. Making yourself accountable to someone else can greatly improve your odds of success.
- Stick to one resolution at a time. Remember, resolutions can be made at any time of the year! Tackle one resolution at a time to give yourself a better chance. Don’t try to quit smoking, lose weight and get your budget under control all at the same time!
- Find a replacement. If your resolution involves something like quitting smoking or not biting your nails, many people find it helpful to find a replacement for the habit. Some take up chewing gum, while others nibble on carrots.
- Start small. The WSJ’s article also notes that when you exert willpower, your ability to do so becomes stronger. Tackle something easier first, and build your way up to using your willpower toward a more challenging task.
Did you know that Friday, January 17 is “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day”? We only point this out to let you know that if you’ve already dropped your resolutions, you are not alone. It’s never a bad time to pick up that resolution, dust it off, and give it another try. And by all means, if you are still going strong with your resolutions, keep up the great work – and leave a comment to let us know how you motivate yourself to stay the course!