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The Psychology Behind Not Achieving New Year’s Resolutions!

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Do you ever find yourself putting off tasks for later? You have, haven’t you? Procrastination has been coined as the phrase ‘thief of time’.

The ancient Greek philosophers Socrates & Aristotle coined the term ‘Akrasia’ for a particular behavior. It refers to acting against your judgment. In other words, it means a lack of self-control or procrastination!

What does this have to do with not achieving new year’s resolutions? It has been human nature for centuries to procrastinate. Throughout history, procrastination has led its way in the lives of many individuals. Every new year, many people make resolutions for the upcoming year. However, we are not successful in achieving those resolutions. This behavior by cognitive psychologists has specified a person as a procrastinator.

Procrastination is the delay or postponement of a task. It is the force that prevents us from achieving our goals. It is common for people to wish they did not procrastinate on following tasks, but they still do so. So, this leads us to our next question: Why do we procrastinate?

Why do we procrastinate?

There are many schools of psychology, but behavioral psychology has revealed something called ‘Time-consistency’. It is the tendency of the human brain to favor immediate rewards over future ones. There are two separate selves: the Future Self and the Present Self!

You are actually making plans for your future self when you set goals for yourself in the new year, such as losing weight or saving money. This results in you envisioning what & how you would like your life to be in the future. Now that your brain has evolved, it can see the value of gaining long-term benefits by taking action now. In this way, the future self is concerned with long-term rewards.

In order to achieve your long-term reward, your Present self must take action. Your brain is now focused on the present self since it prefers instant gratification over long-term rewards. Hence, your future self would like to save money, whereas your present self would like to take advantage of the 20% sale!

In the same way, the young generations understand the importance of saving for their retirement and their future. However, since the rewards are in the long term, not in the short term, your brain might wander! Your present self might end up spending the money somewhere else because you’ll feel satisfied!

Oftentimes, people go to sleep thinking they will do something great the next day, but they don’t actually do anything. Over and over again, our brains have been wired to follow the same pattern! As long as we don’t do anything about this behavior, our brain will keep repeating this pattern.

Finally, we need to ask ourselves, how can we stop procrastinating?

How to achieve new year’s goals without procrastination?

In order to overcome procrastination, you can implement some strategies.

1. Build a temptation bundle

Procrastination can be avoided by linking your long-term choices with immediate solutions. The process of temptation bundling is used to accomplish this. Divide your life into two columns, one for what you love, and one for what you procrastinate over. As an example, if you love watching TV and need to wash your clothes, you can wash them while watching TV.

This activity mentioned below would be fun if you participated for a better understanding! Find out what you love to do and what tasks you procrastinate on!

Draw these two columns on a piece of paper. List the items in each column now. Make a list of all the behaviors or tasks you can think of.

behind not achieving

Browse through your list and see if you can identify one of your instant gratifications ‘want’ behaviors with a ‘should be doing’ behavior! Combine your temptation-building with habit stacking. You should now add the following to your list:

  • After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]
  • After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT]

Suppose I pull out my phone and do ten pushups (need).
After I do ten pushups, I’ll check Facebook (want).

The hope is that you’ll do ten pushups that will eventually get you to check Facebook or read the latest sports news. Doing what needs to be done allows you to do what you want to do.  Include your new year’s resolutions with the things you enjoy, so you can start off on the right foot!

2. Use commitment devices

Psychologists often use this tool to help people deal with procrastination. Your future actions are planned ahead of time with commitment devices. Buying individual packets of cheat day snacks instead of bulk is a good idea if you are planning on following a diet.

In order to save money for emergency funds, set up automatic debits to transfer your funds. This particular aspect of saving money can be achieved with SIPs!

In this case, the goal is to make you more consistent in your resolutions. Consistency is something that fades away as soon as motivation starts to wane and the busyness of life kicks back in. You can navigate this path by using visual cues. Track your success or failure through calendars or excels, whatever visual way you prefer!
When you see your previous achievements, you can easily motivate yourself to take the next constructive step.

3. Break your habits into small chunks

It is only your habits that prevent you from achieving your new year’s resolution! The habits/goals should be reasonable enough for you to maintain momentum and to make this behavior as simple as possible. As a general rule of thumb, if you go easy, you’ll get into the habit faster! The harder you go, the more difficult it becomes to remain consistent!

Do you plan on doing 50 squats a day? Instead, why not do five sets of squats? If you’re going for a 30-minute cardio session, why not break it up into 15-minute sessions? Will that be easy for you, YES! It is important to make your tasks more achievable for two reasons.

  1. Taking small steps helps you maintain momentum over time, so you’re more likely to complete large projects.
  2. When you complete a productive task faster, you develop a more productive and effective attitude toward the rest of your day.


“Small habits don’t add up, they compound. That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results!”- James Clear