Why You Won't Keep Your New Year's Resolution

By the end of January, a third of everyone who has made a New Year's resolution will have stopped. By July, more than half will lapse. But knowing why could keep you on the right track.

What's the Latest Development?


A new scientific understanding of an old concept helps explain why most people waffle on their New Year's resolutions. Willpower is now understood by social scientists as a real  form of mental energy which you deplete as you exert self-control. Dieting, which is the most popular resolution, is also the most difficult to abide by because as you refrain from eating the tastiest foods, glucose levels begin to drop, lessening the amount of willpower you have. There are strategies, however, for using less willpower more effectively. 

What's the Big Idea?

Setting a clear goal, such as 'losing a pound a week', rather than just 'loose weight' increases your chances of success. So does limiting yourself to one resolution at a time. Committing yourself to actions ahead of time, like scheduling work out sessions with friends or planning meals in advance will keep you from exerting too much willpower. Experts also recommend outsourcing the resolution by telling friends about your progress to establish a community of friendly help around you. Finally, reward yourself as you achieve small goals.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.