The Top Seven Reasons People Break Their New Year's Resolutions
By Stephen Kraus
Have you broken your New Year's resolution yet?
If so, you aren't alone. Studies suggest that 20% of resolutions
are broken within the first week of January. At least 80% are
broken within one year, and the actual figure is probably much
But the big question is: Why?
An even bigger question: What can we do about it?
In this article, we'll explore the top seven reasons for
breaking resolutions, and proven science-based techniques
for avoiding them.
==> #1. All-or-none thinking.
"Resolutions" set us up for failure by luring us into all-or-
none thinking. Most people think in terms of "keeping" their
resolutions, or "breaking" them.
Thinking in black-or-white terms of "success" or "failure" can be
fun as long as you are making good progress. But the joy of
feeling like a "pure success" soon fades with the first minor
setback, and you plunge into feeling like a total failure.
In other words, all-or-none thinking leads to the next cause of
breaking resolutions: the snowball effect.
==> #2. The snowball effect.
We've all experienced the snowball effect: letting a minor lapse
snowball into a major relapse and a total collapse. Because
all-or-none thinking is a major factor, it happens to resolution-
makers all the time.
D'ieters frequently suffer from the snowball effect as well,
because they typically think in terms of being "on" their d'iet,
or "off" it. Any little setback leads them to think that they
have "broken" it, and they pig out.
==> #3. Overlooking progress, and dwelling on setbacks.
The "law of effect" is the most fundamental law in psychology.
It's simple: actions followed by rewards are strengthened and
likely to recur.
It seems obvious, but most people do just the opposite. Study
after study has shown people who try -- and fail -- to make life
changes self-reward too little, and self-punish too much.
Resolutions-makers (and d'ieters) do this all the time. After
two weeks of healthy eating and exercise, for example, they have
an ice cream cone. But instead of rewarding themselves for two
weeks of solid progress, they beat themselves up over their minor
==> #4. No plan (& bad goal setting & we forget)
These reasons all go together, and they all have the same root
Most people resolve to do X in the coming year, and don't think
much beyond that. But an annual resolution is too far in the
future to be motivating. You won't be inspired to take action,
or to make a plan and follow through. And because such a distant
goal simply won't show up on your "radar screen," you'll soon
forget about it. Until next New Year's.
Instead, studies show that resolution-keepers use the proven
principles for setting goals that will keep them focused,
motivated and confident.
==> #5. The "nice-to-keep" syndrome
Let's face it -- for most people, their resolution is a "nice-
to-keep," not a "need-to-keep."
Sure, they'd like to be fit, or quit smoking, or have better
relationships, or whatever. But by January 7th, they get focused
on issues that are supposedly more "pressing," or get bogged down
"putting out fires." Their longer-term, nice-to-have goals keep
getting put on the back burner, and are soon forgotten.
Resolution-keepers do it differently.
They use a variety of commitment-enhancing and pre-commitment
strategies that ensure they avoid the "nice-to-keep" syndrome.
They find ways to keep themselves accountable, and follow
through on the things that are truly important to them.
==> #6. No Vision (& not understanding the all-important "why")
The motivating power of any goal comes from truly understanding
*why* you want it. But most resolution-makers don't think
through their underlying motivations.
Just wanting to l'ose ten p'ounds for its own sake may be a fine
goal, but it won't be enough to motivate you when you have to
make sacrifices or suffer a setback.
But you'll have that motivation if you know that getting in
shape will mean having more stamina for playing with your kids,
or going on a big hiking trip with your friends.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupery once put it: "If you want to build a
ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them
tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless
immensity of the sea." Clarify your Vision, and motivation will come.
==> #7. Not enough action.
All of the "small" reasons for not keeping resolutions add up
to one big reason: not enough action.
Most people know what to do in order to keep their resolution.
They have the blueprint for success. But they don't take
There's no great secret to weight loss success - just burn off
more calories than you take in. Eat more vegetables, watch
your portion sizes, and exercise more (studies have shown
that weight loss maintainers average one hour of exercise
per day!). It's not hard to figure out. It's just hard to do
it, and maintain these lifestyle changes over the long-term.
Most people start out OK, but don't take sufficient action
to make cement their new habits, and make their life changes
About The Author
Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Stephen Kraus separates the science of success from self-help snake oil.