The False Hope Syndrome

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.

9 Responses to "The False Hope Syndrome"

phoenix (visit their site)

I think I'm Diagnosed with this False Hope Syndrome, let me re-phrase that, I'm diagnosed for sure!
I'll try to follow your advice mate...

Bella Color (visit their site)

I used to suffer from False Hope Syndrome bas thank God not any more. Im not saying that everything i put my mind into i get, but im starting to having more realistic goals. hehehehehe :)

The reason that i think many why many ppl suffer from this syndrome is b/c no person can live without hope. Without hope life would be unbearable...

Marzouq (visit their site)

I do believe in realistic goals, but I also have to admit Im pretty damn lazy the past couple of days.. so screw it! I need to wip myself into shape! hahaha! HIT THE GYM!

Riding the bike has helped though... makes me realize that Im not fit enough to push myself or ride for too long, but I still keep pushing.

Its the same idea as taking baby steps and going from there..

Like Bella said, people live through things believing in Hope and Hope is a huge thing!

Transparently (visit their site)

Hello. My name is Transparently, and I have False Hope Syndrome. It all started many years ago, when I made a resolution that I would get all As in school. Later I had promised I'd quit smoking, exercise more, and spend more time with the family. But, I had failed miserably. I never admited it, but I felt I had this problem. Now I'm ready to face the facts and admit that sometimes I do have this problem, and will work hard to stay clean. Thank you for accepting me into your group.
*sits down*

Grat article, the cruical part is the Advice at the end, without it, this wouldn't be much help! Good job :)

1001 Nights (visit their site)

Thats interesting. But what about the idea that if you can imagine it, it can happen? Or the idea of sort of negotiating with yourself, asking for a lot so that you do just enough?

Papillona ® (visit their site)

Resolutions are just a made up way to keep the holidays supposedly "special".

if we need to change our life for the better, we shouldn't wait for the start of the calendar year.

jiji (visit their site)

i beg to differ.. a9ab3ik mahey siwa..

i always aim high and get higher! and even when i dont get the least of wut ive expected.. it makes me even more certain that am worth more than wut other see in me..!

again.. this is just me

Fallen Angel (visit their site)

@Phoenix: Good, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem...but no need to worry, this syndrome is less "hazardous" than most psychological syndromes.

@Bella: EXCACTLY!! Good thing that you are no longer under the control of False Hope Syndrome...Brava ^_^

@Marzouq: Really? Every time I see your bike and helmet I always pictured in a very fit shape...I didn't know that. I never thought that the Bike could motivate you to do other things...interesting.

@Transparently: LOL...It takes a lot of guts to confess and admit your problems...*clap clap clap*.
Glad you liked the post and you found my advice helpful.

@1001 nights: Hmmm, and that's an interesting method to employ...I never thought of that. I dunno if your method is medically proven LOL.

@Papi: Exactly, that's my point...way to go Papi ^_^

@JiJi: Well maybe your goals are usually realistic not superficial or over the world....but, as I always said "there's no body knows you better than you."

krupal (visit their site)

may be this syndrome is true for some, but i believe, that death of hope is death of life...

you are right, one should be realistic; but to do great things, one should fly away from shackles of practicality and so called reality.