Written by Dr. Andrea Potthoff PhD LP
We are two weeks into the new year. How are your resolutions coming? Odds are not too well. Researchers estimate that 80% of New Year’s resolutions will fail by February. We find that people’s motivation drops quickly within the first month of the year. With goals to lose weight, improve relationships, start something new, or get rid of a bad habit, our chances of succeeding are low. The most common resolutions revolve around healthy eating and weight loss, but rarely last. In fact, February 4th is the biggest day for fast food visits (now creatively known as the “fatty solstice”) and gym visits seem to tank around the same time of year. So, if we are serious about changing, what can we do about it?
Why do resolutions fail?
Looking at what derails you from meeting your goals is a helpful place to start. Here is a great example of how changing your thinking can change your behavior. When you do make a slip-up (which is bound to happen), do not view it as a failure and scrap the rest of the day. Get back to your goal as soon as you can. Eleven o’clock at night is not too late to start eating healthy again.
When you do work towards your goal, how have you been rewarding yourself? Humans respond remarkably well to reinforcement, but many of us neglect to reward ourselves. Develop incentives that will help motivate you to meet your goal. A beneficial reinforcer occurs frequently enough to maintain motivation and not too often that its value diminishes quickly. I often encourage patients to develop a list of possible reinforcers (e.g., coffee with a friend, buying a book) to choose from in case motivation changes over time.
Sometimes we make the simple error of moving the goal line. Let’s say you want to go to the gym three times a week, but once you’ve accomplished that, you set the goal of going every day. Stick to the original goal or you may find your motivation decreases quickly.
What can you do to keep your resolution?
Recent research shows that postponement of something is more successful than total restriction of it. Instead of eliminating your vice, consider postponing it and reducing its frequency overtime. Scientists have found that we tend to desire and consume products more if we try to restrict them entirely.
Accountability and partnership can be enormously beneficial when we are working towards a new goal. Find someone who can participate in the goal with you. Having someone to go to the gym with or participate in a new hobby with can help provide you with motivation when you are not feeling motivated on your own.
Sometimes a professional can help you work toward a new goal. This might be a personal trainer, dietician, financial advisor, or even a psychologist. If you would like more information about getting professional support for your goal, call us at 612-470-4099 or email us at andrea@dendrinospsychology.com.

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