4. We Deal in Absolutes
"People are making absolute statements about what they're going to do, and that's setting them up for failure immediately," Cuddy says, "because they're not always going to go to the gym three times a week."
Only a Sith deals in absolutes. If that isn't good enough reason to avoid this kind of thinking when it comes to resolutions, then do it to increase your odds of success. Avoid concepts like "always" or "never" - afford yourself some wiggle room. If you resolve to never eat chocolate, then not only is that a more difficult resolution to keep, but if you "cheat," then this will lead to more negative thinking and loss of morale than if you simply resolve to eat less chocolate.
5. We Use Negative Framing
People "tend to focus on things they want to change about themselves and things they dislike about themselves," Cuddy says. When you do this, "you're eliciting in yourself negative emotions. Some negative emotions are motivating, but for the most part, they're not."
I'm fascinated with the psychological applications of framing. It's a terrific example of how we can trick ourselves into drastically changing our perception of something from negative to positive. If your resolution is to lose weight, then you've already applied a negative framing to your goal - by focusing on the weight loss, the implicit message is, "There is something wrong with me that I must change."
If, instead, your goal is to lead a better lifestyle by exercising more and making healthier food choices, your focus is on positive change - weight loss will simply be a consequence of these goals. The message then becomes, "I am seeking to improve myself." Self-improvement implies no negative current state - everyone has room for improvement.
6. We Focus on a Distant Goal
"If you're focused on walking 100 miles, and you're just constantly focused on that number 100 miles and trying to track your progress, it's going to be pretty friggin demoralizing most of the way," Cuddy says. "You're going to feel like a failure for so much of that because the comparison is between where I am now versus where I want to be."
When do you think people give up on their resolutions? Early on, or toward the final stretch? The answer is obvious, and part of the reason is that when things become difficult early on, a faraway goal seems daunting to achieve.
I'll never get there. This will take forever. I can't do this.
By setting milestones, you can achieve measurable, incremental success that will keep you motivated to go on. Better still, if you can focus on how your pursuit of the goal is improving your life in the interim, not only will you be undaunted by the distant finish line, but you'll be more likely to be adopting positive, life changing habits rather than a temporary change in behavior.
Did you make a New Year's resolution for 2015? Why or why not? Have you already given up on it? Did you achieve your 2014 resolution? If not, when did you quit? Let us know!
Sources: Business Insider, Vox, Marist Poll