December 11, 2013—Provo, UT—Edith L. has always struggled with weight gain, but the one thing that has historically kept her weight in check is exercise. In an attempt to gain motivation to work on her exercise goal, she joined a state-of-the-art gym. Two years later, she laments that she spent $3,600 in membership fees without stepping foot in the facility.
An online survey of 1,839 people administered by Joseph Grenny, the New York Times best-selling author of Change Anything, found that Edith’s failed resolutions are the archetype for most. Specifically, the failure to stick with New Year’s resolutions carries a price tag of more than $1,000 for 7 in 10 people.
The study also revealed that half of people give up on their goals within 30 days. By three months, 3 out of 4 people have thrown in the towel. What’s worse, this cycle of failure happens year after year—77 percent have made the exact same resolution for more than five years!
Why do so many struggle to make progress on their goals and resolutions? According to the study, the majority of people blame their failure to change on a lack of willpower.
Grenny says the blame is misplaced.
“We mistakenly believe the ability to break free from bad habits and reach our goals depends on our capacity to muster the necessary willpower to succeed,” says Grenny. “However, the real reason we fail at keeping our resolutions is that we are blind and outnumbered to the personal, social, and environmental forces that influence our choices and habits.”
Grenny offers six tips to break bad habits and stick with this year’s New Year’s resolutions:
- Love what you hate: If you stick to your change plan, you’ll eventually enjoy behaviors you currently find unpleasant. Until then, find motivation in the people and things around you.
- Do what you can’t: Learn the skills you need to make and keep new habits. For example, research shows that when facing temptation people who learn a few simple coping skills are 50% better at resisting their urges.
- Turn accomplices into friends: Don’t underestimate the power of your peers. For example, Harvard sociologist Nicholas Christakis discovered that having obese friends increases your chances of following suit by 75%.
- Celebrate small successes: Break your goals into small, manageable targets. When you hit one, reward yourself with something small such as a fun night out with friends.
- Control your space: Change your environment to support new behaviors. For example, Brian Wansink from Cornell University found that by reducing their plate size by three inches, people consume 33% fewer calories.
- Learn from setbacks: Successful changers turn bad days into good data. They understand how to learn from setbacks and adjust for future success.
Note to editor: Joseph Grenny, co-author of Change Anything, is available for interview. Books are also available upon request.
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