Professor Alison Phillips

Professor Alison Phillips

AUDUBON It’s officially 2022, and people are starting to make their New Year’s resolutions. Some of the top resolutions include — in no particular order — losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, getting organized, saving money and in the time of COVID — focusing on mental health and living life to the fullest.

If you’ve made resolutions in the past, but you couldn’t keep them, here’s a possible reason. according to Iowa State University Professor Alison Phillips. We are setting ourselves up to fail.

“I’ve seen two different statistics, one is that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week in February. The other is a bit less depressing and that’s 40% of us are still hanging on after four months. Either way, long-term efforts at changing our behavior generally fail,” said Phillips, who studies behavior change and habit formation. We should be focusing on how to make changes that will lead to creating a better version of yourself.

She said that was important because behaviors that stick around, “become part of our self-identity, it’s how we see ourselves.”

Things that we’re proud of, good at, or that make us feel competent at something are the kinds of things we should be aiming at. Phillips said people making resolutions should focus on things that they can become good at, things they could see themselves doing and taking pride in.

“Habits form as you repeat them in a stable context,” she said.

She suggested picking “a time that’s pretty regular that you could do it and that will help you form a habit more quickly. Also, pick something that you relatively enjoy. You might not like exercise at all but pick something that you hate the least and that you would be proud of yourself to do.”

When it comes to physical fitness, aiming for specific goals that focus on behavior, not certain outcomes, like that specific number on your scale.

For example, if you prefer riding your bike to running, “By all means, go for the bike,” she said, adding, “even if it’s in the gym and the stationary bike isn’t awesome, maybe try a spin class until the weather is nicer.”

There will be challenges and obstacles, Phillips said, “Everyone fails, so plan ahead and rehearse how you will cope when you run into barriers.”

Social support is important, so in addition to having a workout buddy, those making resolutions should make sure family is on board, too, and will be encouraging as you create new, positive habits.

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