Saturday, January 1, 2011

False Hope Syndrome

Made any New Year’s Resolutions? Sorry to burst your bubble, but they’re probably going to fail.
As many as 90 percent of attempts at change fail, yet New Year’s resolvers are undeterred. In a 2002 report in the journal American Psychologist, University of Toronto researcher Janet Polivy and a colleague came up with a name for this “cycle of failure and renewed effort: the False Hope Syndrome.
The False Hope Syndrome is “particularly common among those who resolve to lose weight” due to dieters’ “unrealistic goals and a misunderstanding of [their] own behavior.”

So what’s the secret to setting and achieving goals?

Focus on behaviors, not results. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A vague and overreaching resolution like “I wanna drop 30 pounds” is none of the above. Instead, make a checklist of actions that’ll put you in the right direction.

Here, for example, are some of M’s health-related resolutions for 2011:
Like many of us, M’s looking to improve her strength, body composition, and overall health. But rather than just resolving to “lose X percent body fat” or “eat zero desserts in 2011,” her resolutions are specific, reasonable, and action-oriented -- and she can track her progress along the way with her workout log.

Then again, given that my one resolution this year is to "just keep on keepin' on," it's clear that I'm not following any of the advice above about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. (It's 'cause I'm D.U.M.B.)