8 percent. That’s how many people report being successful with their New Year’s Resolutions. 8 percent. Out of 100 people you know, only 8 of them will be successful in their resolutions. Yikes. So what is it about resolutions that make it so hard for them to be successful?
Behavioral change is hard. It takes time. And patience. And dedication. And mental fortitude. And determination. And will power. And accountability. It seems daunting. Challenging. Impossible even. Well, its not. Impossible that is. Change is still hard, and it can be daunting, but I’m hoping that after you read this post, you will have a little bit better understanding of WHY these changes can be so hard; and after next week, you will feel prepared to conquer your resolutions and become part of the 8 percent.
We make resolutions in an effort to incite a change in our lives be it to get healthy, lose weight, quit smoking, read more, spend less, the list goes on. No matter what the actual resolution is, the process all comes down to behavioral change. Change tends to be uncomfortable and when you’re changing something about yourself, it can be even more so. Let’s face it: we don’t continue a bad behavior because it’s good for us! We all know what we should be doing, so why don’t we? There has been a lot of research into behavioral changes, specifically around fitness and sticking with an exercise regimen. The concepts that I’m covering are rooted in exercise adherence research, but are hugely applicable to every aspect of your life.
1. Self-Efficacy: When studying exercise adherence, researchers have found that a contributing factor in peoples’ likelihood to pursue and stick with regular exercise is what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” which is a fancy way of saying a person’s belief in their ability to perform a specific action or behavior. It is important to note that self-efficacy has nothing to do with actual abilities but your belief in your abilities (McAuley, 1991). Substitute “exercise” with “change” and this information is just as applicable to your resolutions. Research shows that people with higher levels of self-efficacy tend to have better success in implementing healthy behavioral changes. These people also tend to put forth more effort and persist longer when faced with obstacles and adverse situations (McAuley, 1991). Simply put, people who believe that they are “good at” something, tend to try harder when things become difficult or uncomfortable, and are more likely to implement healthy behavioral changes. And yes, you can increase your self-efficacy.
2. Goals and Expectations: Being realistic in your expectations is important when beginning anything new. Focusing on the outcome, or being too ambitious in your expectations can actually lead to higher rates of attrition. Change is a slow process. When people do not see the results they want as quickly as they want to, or their expectations are not met in the time they expect them to be, they become discouraged, and often give up. Setting appropriate goals is vital in successfully changing your life. Monitoring and adjusting your goals, as necessary is an important step in the process. Being mindful of your expectations, and being patient with the process will help to set you on the path to success.
3. Psychological State: Current psychological well-being is often a determinant in how likely a person is to adopt behavioral change. Making a resolution for the sake of having a resolution is a recipe for failure. You have to be ready to tackle a new change. You have to be prepared to put in the work and face the challenges. In order for a positive change to take place, you have to WANT to change. Change your mind, and your life will follow.
So, what does this all mean? And, more importantly, what does this mean for you? For one, it means you are not alone! Many people struggle with the same challenges every day. Two, it means we’ve got some work to do! You’ve set your resolutions. You’re here – reading this – that means you already have some interest in making changes to your life. So let’s take the next step together.
Next week, I will be outlining some tools you can use to help set yourself up for success and join the 8 percent!
Let’s Do This!
Baechle, T. & Earle, R. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 3rd edition. Human Kinetics. 2008.
Dalle Grave, R., Calugi, S., El Ghoch, M., & Marchesini, G. (2010). “Cognitive Behavioral Strategies to Increase Adherence to Exercise in the Management of Obesity.” Journal of Obesity, 2011, 1-11.
Levy, A., Polman, R., & Marchant, D., “Examining the Revised Theory of Planned Behavior for Predicting Exercise Adherence: A Preliminary Prospective Study.” www.athleticinsight.com. Vol. 10, Iss. 3. (2008).
McAuley, E. (1991). “The Role of Efficacy Cognitions in the Prediction of Exercise Behavior in Middle-Aged Adults.” Plenum Publishing Corporation. p 65-88.
“The Psychology of Exercise and Fitness” (2008). psychcentral.com
“The Exercise Effect.”www.apa.org. Vol. 42, No. 11, December 2011.