Do you make New Year's resolutions? Most adults do. How successful have you been in keeping your resolutions? If you are like most people, you haven’t done very well. In fact, you might have failed numerous times with the exact same resolutions. Psychologists have reported that on average people make the same pledge for five or more years before they manage to keep their resolution for six months. Also, approximately 60% of those who break the resolution will make the same one again the next year.
Why do we so often fail to keep our resolutions? Psychologists suggested that most of us have unrealistic expectations about our ability to change our behavior (in general, not only at New Year’s), which produce what they termed the false hope syndrome. This syndrome involves exaggerated feelings of control and overconfidence about our ability to change our behavior successfully. We often begin with unrealistic goal (e.g., “I will exercise for 2 hours every day!”). Finally, we tend to expect dramatic, rapid results (e.g., “I’ll probably lose about 10 pounds a week”). Given these erroneous expectations, it is not surprising that we usually fail. When the new behavior proves to be more difficult than we anticipated, and when visible results turn out to be slow, we often abandon our attempt to change.
But why doesn’t the false hope syndrome disappear? Why do we KEEP trying again and again to achieve the same goals? Psychologists simply argued that we often explain our failures in ways to maintain that false hope for the future. For instance, we often blame ourselves for not trying hard enough (e.g., “If only I try a bit harder next time, I’m sure I’ll succeed”). We may also blame external circumstances for our failure and decide that these circumstances are unlikely to occur again (e.g., I won’t be as busy next year as I have been this year, so I’ll have more time to exercise”). Thus, we remain hopeful that we’ll succeed on our next attempt. We convince ourselves that THIS diet will be easier than the Atkins diet, or THIS kind of exercise will be less boring than using a stationary bicycle. Unfortunately, the new strategy is often no easier, no more effective, or no less boring than the last one, and we fail again.
My advice (as well as other psychologists recommend): we should adopt realistic goals (thereby, avoiding overly ambitious plans) and recognize that success will be difficult. If we understand that changing our behavior will be challenging and results may be slow, we are less likely to become discouraged quickly and more likely to structure our environment to encourage our new lifestyle. The key to recognize false hopes and work to replace them with realistic determination.
Posted by Angelo
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