Why New Year’s Resolution Fail and How You can Succeed

Tue, Jan 16, 2018

Have you tried making a New Year’s Resolution that you actually kept? Or do you often make resolutions that fail after every week or two? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. What you may not now know is that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions most likely fail by the second week of February. But don’t fret, here’s what you could do to be one of the successful 20%.

You see, it all comes all the way down to Psychology and you can make use of these two techniques for you to be sure that your resolutions will come to fulfillment.


Science of Habits

Charles Duhigg explains the psychology of habits best in his book The Power of Habit. His theory is that a habit is a loop that consists of three parts—a cue, a routine and a reward.

For example, if you’re like majority of people, you might have a late night drink or a special treat after dinner. By the time your body starts to process the alcohol or food, you may find you don’t sleep as well. To break the habit you need to identify the cue, routine and reward of your late-night wine or treat.

The routine is the easy part to figure out, it’s the routine of going to the kitchen and preparin

g your treat. The cue for this habit might be that you think you need a drink to relax and fall asleep; or you are hungry, bored or have low blood sugar. And the reward is the drink, or treat, itself.

Once you’ve recognized each of the three parts of the loop, you can make a plan to change each one. Write your plan down and stick to it for a week. So, for example, your new plan might look like this:

“At 8:45pm each night, I will have a warm bath with lavender essential oil”

Write it down and set an alarm for that time each night. And it doesn’t matter if you fall off the wagon every now and again. We’ve all been there. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just keep persisting and

 eventually you will have replaced your old habit with a new one that makes for a better night’s sleep.

All it takes is three simple steps:

  1. Pick a small action. Go for one small habit at a time. Most New Year’s Resolutions are huge goals that take a long time to achieve. Don’t set a big goal like losing 10kgs, break it down into smaller habits to be broken, like replace that late night wine with a warm relaxing bath.
  1. Attach a new action to a previous habit, and
  1. Make the new action easy to do for at least one week.

After one week or maybe even less your new habit will be established. New Year’s Resolution success!

Science of Self-Stories

Another very effective method of breaking habits is to change the stories you tell yourself about who you are and what you do. University of Virginia psychologist, Timothy Wilson PhD, has researched the effect of story-telling. One method he uses is ‘story-editing’ where you write out your story and then re-write it to create a new self-story.

For example, your partner may be worried about the fact that you stop breathing in

 your sleep or that you snore really loudly. So your New Year’s Resolution may be to do something about it. The reason you haven’t done something about it already is the story that you tell yourself; maybe you don’t have time, you think a sleep study is too intrusive, or your own health isn’t a high priority.

Here’s how to edit your story and succeed with your New Year’s Resolution:

  1. Write down the story you tell yourself that has prevented you from having a sleep study or being diagnosed. Be brutally honest with yourself and write down every detail. Pay special attention to anything in the story that goes against your New Year’s Resolution.
  1. Now re-write the story. Tell the same story again but in a positive way of a person who wants to do something about their health. And who wants to put their partner’s mind at ease.

This process of story-editing changes your mind-set to a more positive outlook, making it easier to achieve your New Year’s Resolution. Social and clinical psychologists have been using this very simple technique for decades.

Even if your New Year’s Resolution has already failed you can always go back and try one of these simple techniques. Stand out from the crowd and become one of the 20% that succeed!


Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit.
Timothy Wilson, Redirect.

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