05 Jan Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
Don’t beat yourself up mentally if you’ve failed to live up to resolutions in the past. Instead, understand the process of change, so that you know which stage you’re at and whether or not you’re actually ready to make a New Year’s resolution. That way, you’ll have a greater chance of success.
More than 30 years ago, James Prochaska, a professor of psychology at Rhode Island University, identified five stages of change, and recently added a sixth stage.
You may be aware that what you’re doing is unhealthy, but you haven’t thought of any concrete steps for change, or you think change is impossible. It could be also that you try to change because those near and dear to you are pushing you, but it’s not coming from yourself so you aren’t motivated. Don’t make a resolution!
Your attitude has shifted to recognizing that you have a problem, and acknowledging that you need to change. You believe that you can probably make a change, and you have some ideas about what you need to do, but you aren’t really committed yet to doing anything. Not committed? Don’t make a resolution!
Now you start nailing down specific actions you plan to take, you maybe tell others what you are doing, and you may sign up for classes or buy some equipment. It’s important at this stage to focus on just one thing you want to change. Succeeding at making a new habit will make it easier to change something else later on. Now you’re ready to make a resolution!
Hurrah! You’re actually altering your behaviour and doing the things you planned to do. You’ve figured out how to make healthy choices easier, such as keeping nutritious snacks in the cupboard or putting exercise times in your google calendar.
Oh, sure, you may slip into old ways once in a while – that’s normal – but you recognize that you’ve already got some successes under your belt and you know to keep on with your planned actions. You’re well on the way to keeping your resolution.
It takes a while for the brain to grow the new pathway of a good habit that is bigger than your old neural pathway of a bad habit. This is the period when you get better and stronger at following your planned actions, you have the skills to overcome temptations, and you’re knowledgabe about how to get back on track after the occasional relapse. If you can make it past the 6-month mark, your resolution is probably going to succeed.
Eventually you may reach the final stage, when your new habit is deeply engrained and you’re no longer tempted to fall into old habits.
So, unless you’re at stage 3 and have a plan of action in place, you’re probably not ready to make a New Year’s resolution.