Tip For Sticking With New Year’s Resolutions: Just Say “I Don’t!” avatar Posted by Dr. Mike Brooks
Jan 16, 2013
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Alright, how are those New Year’s Resolutions going so far? Yes…me too! They sure are hard to stick with! A friend of mine said she doesn’t like using the term “resolutions” so hers are “New Year’s aspirations“. I like it! As your a tempted to break your resolutions (or drift away from your aspirations), here’s another powerful tip that might help you to stick with them.

I’m usually pretty good about citing my sources, but I am choosing not to track this one down. I am pretty sure it is either from a Scientific American Mind article or one from the Psychotherapy Networker. I can say for certain that it is from research findings cited in a reputable source. If I run across it again, I’ll update this blog to reflect it. But here’s the tip that I want to pass along so that you can benefit from it sooner rather than later.

Oftentimes when we are making resolutions or deciding to make changes in our lives, we tell ourselves (and others!), “I can’t _____.” This could be eat desserts, have sodas, drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke cigarettes, skip a workout, and so on. However, there’s that little rebel inside of us that inevitably shouts, “No one can tell me what I can’t do…including myself!” In a way, this is a form of psychological reactance – the well-documented psychological construct that, when we feel that our freedom is being restricted, we act in ways to reinstate that freedom. So, when we say, “I can’t,” it comes across as denying ourselves something that we truly want. Ironically, it can make us want that thing more and make us more inclined to break any resolution.

So what’s the solution? Instead of saying, “I can’t ______” say, “I don’t ______.” By stating “I don’t,” in effect, we are stating that pursuing that behavior is inconsistent with who we really are. In other words, I’m not a person who smokes. I’m not a person who skips a workout. I’m not a person who ______. In this way, instead of coming across as a loss of liberty, it comes across as a form of empowerment. And when we feel empowered, there’s no stopping us. Give it a try!

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Dr. Brooks is a Licensed Psychologist and the Director of the Austin Psychology & Assessment Center (ApaCenter). He provides therapy, consultation, and coaching services to adolescents and adults. His areas of specialization and professional interests include mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy,solution-oriented therapy, feedback informed treatment (FIT), positive psychology, positive computing, empirically-supported treatment, and existential issues.
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