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A Psychological View of New Year’s Resolutions

December 31st, 2012 by Kennedy

Why We Do Or Don’t Stick To Them

As we get closer to the beginning of a brand new year, it’s a great time to think about turning a new leaf, starting over, making changes in our lives for the better, beginning a new chapter in life, etc… the goals we set for ourselves to accomplish – our New Year’s Resolutions. Everywhere you go this time of year someone asks, “So what’s your New Year’s Resolution?”

A Little History

People have been setting New Year’s resolutions for thousands and thousands of years all around the world. And the month of January is a good time to do this. It’s the onset of a fresh year, plus January comes from ancient Roman times and is derived from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backward into the old year and forward into the new. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches, gates, doors, doorways, endings and beginnings.

Popular New Year’s Resolutions

Take a guess at what the most common New Year’s resolutions are. Go ahead… I bet you will think of at least one of these (or one of them might just be one of yours in 2013).

• Lose weight
• Eat healthier
• Exercise more
• Quit smoking or drinking
• Get out of debt
• Save money
• Spend more time with family/friends
• Get a better job
• Travel
• Enjoy life more/ be less stressed

According to the research I found, only about 12% of the people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually keep and achieve them. Why is that? One thing we can take a look at is Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory and the theory of self-efficacy.

Social Cognitive Theory and Self-Efficacy

The well-known psychologist Albert Bandura is also the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University, USA. For almost 60 years he has contributed to many fields of psychology: social cognitive theory, therapy, and personality psychology, among others. He is known for initiating the social learning theory and the theory of self-efficacy.

Social cognitive theory emphasizes how cognitive, behavioral, personal, and environmental factors interrelate to determine motivation and behavior. Self-efficacy, a component of the social cognitive theory, is defined as a person’s belief in his/her ability to succeed in accomplishing a goal. It’s also the most important precondition for changes in behavior.

How does self-efficacy affect how successful we are at achieving goals?

Self-efficacy serves as the basis for motivation, health and well-being, and personal achievements. The stronger we feel we will be able to do something, the more we will devote our energy to doing it, which makes it more likely that we will stick with it to achieve what we want. Studies have shown that people who trust in their skills to handle situations have greater success than just only having the know-how and physical ability to get the mission accomplished.

Day to day we make decisions not only about what goal to set but how long to continue the behaviors we have started. Self-efficacy affects how much effort and energy we invest in the decisions we make. A positive end result doesn’t necessarily occur just because of inherent talents. Instead, it’s the way we approach the goal with our mindset since self-perception is more certain to influence behavior. Building self-efficacy, which in turn builds positivity, motivation and resilience, is one of the most powerful ways to expand our sense of personal potential and achieve our life goals.

Improving Self-Efficacy

• Knowledge is key – Understand yourself and why you do what you do. Also recognise your strengths and weaknesses.
• Challenge negative thoughts – Stop telling yourself “I can’t” and make your new mantra “I can”.
• Use your mind efficiently – What you think on the inside will show on the outside so focus on changing your thoughts within and it will start to show on the outside.
• Observe how others do things – Study professionals and do what they do.
• Accomplish it yourself – Completing a project yourself will motivate you. It will also make you feel better about your ability and inspire you to identify yourself with success.
• Organisation and preparation – Planning helps you focus on a state of mind in which anything seems possible. Ever hear, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”? Very true.

Ways to achieve and maintain New Year’s Resolutions

Besides working on improving self-efficacy, what else can we do to help us stick to the goals we set for ourselves? Research shows that those who are successful at keeping their New Year’s Resolutions use several different tactics. Here are 4 simple methods:

1. Write them down! And while you are writing them down make a list of all of the pluses of each specific goal. If you see them in writing and also see all the benefits, you’re more likely to put more energy into it. Try to imagine how your life will be 1, 5, or even 10 years down the road if you don’t make the changes you’d like to make.
2. Create a plan! Taking on too much is one of the most common reasons New Year’s Resolutions fail. Instead focus on taking “baby steps”. Yes, it will take awhile to see the effect but honestly, it will make it easier to stick to your plan and increase the odds that you will succeed in the long run.
3. Remember that change takes time! You didn’t develop unhealthy or bad habits overnight, it tooks months or years to happen so do not expect change to happen in days, weeks, or months. This isn’t a race. Remember to reward yourself for accomplishments and do not punish yourself for setbacks.
4. Tell others about your goals/resolutions! Get support from your friends and family. Having a solid support system will help keep you accountable and commited to your plan.

Changing the way you think is the first step towards seeing actual results. Believe that you can do it. Believe that you can control your own destiny! How right Bandura was when he wrote,

“We find that people’s beliefs about their efficacy affect the sorts of choices they make in very significant ways. In particular, it affects their levels of motivation and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Most success requires persistent effort, so low self-efficacy becomes a self-limiting process. In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, strung together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.”

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year! Please stay safe, have fun, and I’ll catch you next year!


Amy Evans
Amy Evans
14:54 15 Mar 17
Kennedy was very professional, really entertaining and completely different to what we have booked in the past in terms of an after dinner speaker and entertainment. The performance amazed the whole audience and really lifted the spirits in the entire room in time for our formal proceedings.I would definitely recommend Kennedy to anyone looking for corporate entertainment.
james Sheeran
james Sheeran
08:35 16 Mar 17
What a fantastic night’s entertainment Mind of Kennedy provided. Some of the stuff he did is still being talked about at our company days after! Make sure you book him for your corporate event; you won’t be disappointed!
Kerry Celeste
Kerry Celeste
11:10 09 Feb 17
Absolutely spectacular show! Never seen anything like it. We were all mesmerised from beginning to end. I can highly recommend Kennedy’s show to anyone looking for entertainment for a party, wedding or corporate event. He really was outstanding and kept us all laughing & on the edge of our seats all night!
IAmy Amy
IAmy Amy
11:41 24 Aug 16
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