Scrapping New Year’s resolutions could leave you happier and healthier
think the week is shot anyway (so I will not go at all this week and I resolve to make a fresh start on Sunday).”
The ‘what the hell effect’ is strongest when we make resolutions, which are a tall order, Professor Pillutla warns. These resolutions are the most dangerous for three reasons. First, we are more likely to over-indulge as we inevitably over-step, over-ambitious, self-set limits. Second, we are likely to take longer to get back on the wagon, waiting until next week or next month. Third, we are far more likely to give up entirely, because we consider it a failure if we have not stuck to these strict limits from day one. We quickly conclude that the whole year is shot!
“Compare this to a person who has no such resolutions”, says Professor Pillutla.
“Not having been to the gym by the middle of the week might act as a strong motivator to go now. Ironically, the New Year resolution of going to the gym five times a week leads to worse outcomes than if we had never made the resolution in the first place.”
In spite of the high failure rate, a surprising 60% of us will make exactly the same resolution this new year, when the vast majority of us will fail again.
“We are generally overly optimistic about our ability to meet goals, and also do not learn from past failures. This means that we are more likely to make grand, rather than realistic resolutions”,
says. If you want to make and keep a resolution, Professor Pillutla urges you to examine your failures for situational and personality barriers, set realistic goals and make resolutions that are not difficult to keep on a day to day basis.
“But”, he says, “Beware the delusionary promise of the ‘fresh start’. Remember that not making a resolution might lead to a healthier and happier life than making one that can lead to the ‘what the hell effect’.”