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Description: Here were are again at the time of year where many of us feel compelled to make statements about how we want to live differently (and hopefully better) in the New Year. How do your resolutions usually work out? Well, if not so good, you are not alone. The data suggests that very few New Year’s resolutions lead to lasting behavior change (8% successfully achieve their resolution: ). So do we really need one more look at the questions of resolutions? Of course we do! The author of the piece link below is an economist but not as far off Psychology as you would think as economists study human decision making and Psychology’s own Daniel Kahneman won his Nobel prize in economics. The author of the article linked below suggests that we ask ourselves two questions about each resolution we are considering making. The first is “Why didn’t I do this already?” and the second is “Why do I feel the need to do this now”? Think about how the answers to these two questions might be informed by (or inform) you and the psychology of decision making and persistence and then read the article itself.

Source: How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions, Austin Frakt, The Upshot, New York Times.

Date: December 30, 2016

Photo Credit:  Jack Sachs, New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

How did you do in sorting out the questions? Together the questions tap directly into the core of what Psychology is currently talking about as mindfulness and relatedly into motivational interviewing for behavior change. Rather than simply stating a desire to be different the suggested approach to resolutions contain three important components. The first (question 1) involves a look for obstacles. If you have not made a change in behaviors you have been bothered by for a while what is it that is keeping you from doing so. This mindful focus makes it more likely you will see and address things that are hindering your change. The second (question 2) involves your motivation. Why specifically do you want to be different? Focusing mindfully on that will provide you with a broader motivational base for positive behavior change. Finally, (after the questions) the author suggests holding to a month of full commitment to the change and then reassessing and making changes or abandoning the change goal depending on how it is going. And keep it simple… do not try to change too many things at once. Sound good? Give it a try right now!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Pick a behavior you would like to change and apply the 2 questions in the article to that behavior.
  2. Having done the things noted in the previous “question” do you think it is something you could go forward with? Will you succeed?
  3. How might this advice about resolutions link to things like psychotherapy?

References (Read Further):

Norcross, J. C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self‐reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405.’s_resolvers_and_nonresolvers/links/0fcfd50aaacf2d164e000000.pdf

Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2002). If at first you don’t succeed: False hopes of self-change. American Psychologist, 57(9), 677.

Segal, Z. V. (2010). Mindfulness and the therapeutic relationship. S. F. Hick, & T. Bien (Eds.). Guilford Press.

Faries, M. D. Reasons for Breaking New Year’s Resolutions.

Olshansky, E. (2005). Being Mindful: Living Each Day in a Hectic World. Journal of Professional Nursing, 21(1), 1-2.

Miller, W. R., & Rose, G. S. (2015). Motivational interviewing and decisional balance: contrasting responses to client ambivalence. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 43(02), 129-141.

Magill, M., Gaume, J., Apodaca, T. R., Walthers, J., Mastroleo, N. R., Borsari, B., & Longabaugh, R. (2014). The technical hypothesis of motivational interviewing: A meta-analysis of MI’s key causal model. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(6), 973.






2 Responses to “Resolutions? One More Time!”

    • Mike Boyes

      And thanks for this one too. I was doing too many things at once!

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