Some want to get in shape. Some want to change their diets. Others want to travel more. Art and design senior Molly Eichten has a simple goal: wanting to fix her oven. Whether the goal is to build lifetime habits or to fix short-term problems like Eichten’s, many people set out to partake in the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions.
In 2018, the most common resolutions were to eat healthier, get more exercise and save more money, according to data from Statista. However, 80 percent of people will give up on these resolutions by February, clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani found.
“[Resolutions] work for like a month and then, after that, not really,” sociology senior Nicole Tong said. “I feel like people are super ambitious in the new year, and then they kind of give up towards the end.”
A study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology discovered that of the 40 to 50 percent of American adults that set New Year’s resolutions, only 10 percent keep their resolutions for longer than six months.
So, what causes this low success rate?
“Most [resolutions] fail because they’re not pleasant,” psychology professor Daniel Levi said. “People say they’re going to the gym, but they get crowded. The negativity of what they’re doing is the problem.”
Levi says the solution to making successful resolutions is to “set up a rewards system for acting.” For example, he says asking a friend to do the resolution with you will add a social reward and joining a wellness program with self-rewards at each step will increase your chances of success.
Psychology professor Don Ryujin agreed.
“If you say you are going to exercise, it is best to do it with a friend,” Ryujin said. “There are equations that look at the reinforcement value of doing a certain behavior interacting with one’s belief about being able to do the behavior.”
Ryujin also explains how environmental factors can impact whether a resolution is kept or abandoned. For example, if a person is trying to quit a bad habit like smoking, it is best for them to avoid any situations where this activity takes place.
Levi emphasizes a business model that dives deeper into the methods of enacting a lifestyle change: the Kurt Lewin change theory. This three-step method suggests that changing a group of people is easier than changing a single person, a concept that makes the theory popular among organizations.
First the participants must be ready to “unfreeze,” or be open to change. Then, they must actually change. This step takes time but is easier to achieve in a group setting.
Finally, once they have fully embraced their new lifestyle, the participants are ready to “refreeze.”
Cal Poly students were polled on whether or not they have followed through with their resolutions so far this year. A majority — 16 people out of the 20 who responded with resolutions — said they have.
“Last year, my resolution was to stop eating meat, so I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now,” journalism senior Lindsay Morris said. “Mine this year is to hike more. I’ve hiked Madonna, Serenity Swing and Valencia peak so far.”
Morris’ advice for keeping a New Year’s resolution is “to give yourself a tangible goal.” If the goal is too broad, she said, then it will be harder to complete.
Wine and viticulture senior Noah Knebel has also had success in his resolution so far. “[My resolution is] to remove all social media off my mobile device,” he said.
“I have removed Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat,” Knebel said. “It’s been nice. I go to bed earlier, I’m not on my phone as much, and I’m just talking to people more.”
Similar to Morris, Knebel’s advice for success is to be realistic. He says that people need to set a realistic plan to meet those expectations.
Rabbi Chaim Hilel of San Luis Obispo also had some advice for people trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions.
“My trick for resolutions is [to take them] one week at a time,” Hilel said. “Instead of making it a long-term thing and then giving up, make it short-term and keep extending it … Before you know it, a year goes by doing it week to week, and it worked.”
Maddy Copley, Connor McCarthy, Nicole Thorpe and Tina Raeisi also contributed to this story.