How many resolutions did you make this year? Better yet, how many are you still keeping?
The answer to the first question may help predict your answer to the second question.
According to Psychology Today, between 40 and 50 percent of all people in the United States make resolutions each year. The most common topics focus on losing weight, increasing exercise, decreasing smoking, or improving finances.
But only about 8 percent of those people succeed in keeping their resolutions to the end of the year. Many only get as far as February before they find themselves starting to give up on those resolutions.
Researchers have suggested many reasons why people are more likely to fail than succeed at their New Year’s resolutions.
Willpower turns to no power
Keeping resolutions often becomes an act of willpower. We try to force ourselves into a pattern that is new or different from what we are used to.
The problem, according to psychologist Roy Baumeister from Florida State University, is that each of us has a limited supply of willpower. Willpower uses energy and like any source of energy, it can run low if you use it too much or too fast.
And it’s not just keeping your resolution that depletes this power supply. Everyday activities such as making decisions at work or at home can also tap into the same source of energy. So if you have to make tough decisions, don’t be surprised if it’s harder to keep your resolution that day.
Two may be too many
Another trap many people fall into is overwhelming the ability to keep resolutions by making too many at once. Again, the more times you have to draw on willpower to keep one resolution, the less power you have to keep others. So multiple resolutions can actually work against each other, even if the concepts behind them are very different.
Some people seem to believe that by making resolutions they can force themselves to behave differently. But according to psychology professor Timothy Pychyl, the reality is that if you are not really ready to change a bad habit, making a resolution won’t help.