It’s around this time of year that a lot of people come back from their summer holidays with big plans for self-improvement… It’s the whole ‘new year, new you’ idea that people really buy into. I know I do it. But according to a study by the University of Scranton, only around 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually succeed in achieving them.
So why do so many New Year’s resolutions fail?
There are a number of possible reasons but a key one that I’ve been thinking about lately is positive versus negative framing of goals, or what’s known to psychologists as Approach and Avoidance Goals. I remember learning about this in my Health Psychology class at Uni. Basically, the issue is that most people set avoidance goals, where they focus on what they don’t want or the problem that they want to fix about themselves. For example, a goal to lose weight, stress less, drink less alcohol, stop eating chocolate, etc. These are all based on negative emotions and tend to come from a place of fear. Health blogger, Melissa Ambrosini, explains this well in her ‘Love over Fear’ campaign. It is far more effective (and it makes you feel a lot better) to choose things out of love and to focus on the positive outcome of doing it. All of the above goals can be reframed to be Approach goals.
Lose weight –> feel great about my body and fit into my dream dress
Stress less –> relax more and enjoy life
Drink less alcohol –> drink moderately and occasionally so I can wake up feeling fresh and rejuvenated
Stop eating chocolate –> eat what I know is good for my body and makes me healthy and strong
… I feel better just reading the Approach goals! I’m not saying these are ideally worded goals (they should go into more specific detail about what you want to achieve and when by) but the point is that by adjusting the focus from what you want to avoid to what you want to gain and doing it out of love for yourself rather than fear is far more motivating and gives us more of a sense of energy and inspiration. So this year I’m going to focus on having more healthy food, exercising regularly, and still eating chocolate but higher quality chocolate (like my dark chocolate truffles) and in moderation… not because I want to lose weight but because I want to be the best version of me and live a happy, healthy and balanced life.