What makes a New Year's Resolution Successful?
By Sara Chow - January 6, 2018
As January is now here we start to self-reflect on what we could do to improve our lives in the New Year and start to focus on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are those related to health, such as: weight-loss, exercise programs, and quitting smoking (Norcross, Mrykalo & Blagys, 2002). Sadly though, follow-up research studies have demonstrated what most of us already know from personal experience – that many of our well-intentioned resolutions fail.
Statistics show that the failure rates for New Year’s resolutions are as high as 80-90% (Garko, 2010) with significant failure rates starting after only 1-2 weeks (2002)! But there is good news to share with fellow ‘resolutioners’ too – that Norcross and his colleagues also demonstrated that New Year’s resolutions do work to some extent. In fact, research showed that people who made New Year’s resolutions had a success rate that was 10 times higher than non-resolution makers at 6 months after they began their respective resolutions.
So what helps to make a New Year’s resolution successful? There isn’t one definitive answer or any special secrets, but there are a few tips that can lead to better success.
First, it is important to note that many New Year’s resolutions – especially health-related ones - aren’t based on one-time events for change; instead they are more likely to be type of long-term behavioural change that will lead to the intentioned goal. For example, weight-loss and quitting smoking are highly dependent on making lifestyle changes that involve healthier diets, regular exercise, and even social changes like going out less or drinking less. Therefore, we can apply behavioural change theory to the examination of New Year’s resolution successes.
When it comes to behaviour change there are a few key success factors to consider: 1) Are you ready to change?; 2) Are you committed?; and 3) Are you confident?
People who are more successful at their resolution are typically at a stage where they are more prepared to change. They have considered the change they’d like to make and are now ready to take action and for some people the right time for them to start is in January.
Being committed to your change is essential. Commitment to your change means that you have taken personal responsibility for the outcome, and that you have told yourself that you will devote the necessary time, effort, planning, and goal-setting to follow-through (2010).
Confidence in the behavioural theory realm is also known as ‘self-efficacy’. There has been a great amount of research dedicated to how self-efficacy impacts our ability to make changes; including sticking with our goals when things get tough. People who have high self-efficacy are more optimistic about their capabilities to achieve their goals and are able to positively influence challenges so that they don’t have a negative impact on their goal. For example, someone who doesn’t lose the 1 pound they set as a goal one week will not be deterred by this failure; rather their confidence helps them believe that they can overcome this challenge for the following week.
In summary, there isn’t just one secret to success. Making a lifestyle change is hard to do, anybody could tell you that. However, if you are ready to change, committed to changing and believe in yourself you increase your chances of success for happy and healthy change. You can do it! Commit to the change you want to make and believe that you can do it!
Written with articles from:
Garko, M. (2010). New Year’s Resolution Recommendations for 2010. Let’s Talk Nutrition.
Norcross, J., Mrykalo, M. & Blagys, M. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year’s Resolvers and Non-Resolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58(4): 397-405.