Sticking To New Year Resolutions: Unraveling The Psychology Of Self-Motivation.
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Sticking to New Year Resolutions: Unraveling the Psychology of Self-Motivation.

| Sticking to New Year Resolutions: Unraveling the Psychology of Self-Motivation. | The Psychology Company

Sticking to New Year Resolutions: Unraveling the Psychology of Self-Motivation.

Have you made your new year resolutions yet? How confident do you feel in sticking to them? If the answer to the last question is ‘not very’ then you are not alone, in fact the majority of people quit their resolutions by the middle of the year. So what can help us stay motivated? Well motivation, the invisible force propelling us toward our goals or holding us back from them, is a complex interplay of psychological factors deeply rooted in our desires, fears, and perceptions. Understanding the psychology behind motivating ourselves to pursue what we want and refrain from what we don’t want involves unraveling the intricate workings of our minds.


Desire and Goal Setting

At the heart of self-motivation lies desire—a longing for something, whether it’s achieving a dream, improving oneself, or experiencing a specific outcome. Identifying our desires and setting clear, achievable goals provides the roadmap for our motivation. Goals act as beacons, guiding our actions and providing a sense of purpose. However one primary reason  why people don’t stick to resolutions is the discrepancy between setting ambitious goals and underestimating the effort required to achieve them. Unrealistic expectations can lead to discouragement when progress doesn’t meet these lofty aims therefore it’s important to cultivate realistic expectations.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation can stem from both internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic) sources. Intrinsic motivation originates from within, driven by personal satisfaction, curiosity, or passion for the task itself. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, arises from external rewards or consequences. Balancing these motivations is key; while external rewards can kickstart actions, sustaining motivation often hinges on finding intrinsic satisfaction in what we do. So find a strong “why” behind your resolution can help enhance commitment.


The Role of Beliefs and Mindset

Our beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities significantly influence our motivation. A growth mindset, which views challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles, fosters resilience and perseverance. Conversely, limiting beliefs or a fixed mindset can hinder motivation by creating self-imposed barriers.


The Power of Habits and Routines

Building habits and routines can be a powerful tool in motivating ourselves. Habits, once established, reduce the need for constant decision-making, making it easier to stick to desired behaviours. Creating positive habits aligning with our goals reinforces motivation by embedding actions into our daily lives.

The time it takes to turn something into a habit can vary widely among individuals and behaviours. The commonly cited “21 days to form a habit” is a bit of a myth. Research suggests that the time it takes to form a habit can range from several weeks to several months, and in some cases even longer, depending on factors such as the complexity of the behaviour, individual differences and consistency in practice. Simple habits might take a shorter time to establish, while more complex behaviours or those requiring significant lifestyle changes could take longer. On average, it’s often suggested that it takes around 66 days for a behaviour to become automatic and ingrained as a habit. However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule; some people might develop habits more quickly, while others may take longer. Consistency, repetition, and persistence are key factors in solidifying a new behaviour into a habit.


Understanding Resistance and Procrastination

Resistance and procrastination often stand as barriers to motivation. They can stem from various sources such as fear of failure, perfectionism, overwhelm, or lack of clarity. Recognizing these barriers and addressing their underlying causes—whether through breaking tasks into smaller steps, adjusting expectations, or seeking support—can help overcome resistance and bolster motivation.


Harnessing Emotions and Visualization

Emotions play a significant role in motivation. Leveraging positive emotions like enthusiasm, curiosity, or joy can fuel our drive. Additionally, visualization techniques—mentally picturing the desired outcome—can reinforce motivation by making our goals more tangible and achievable.


Accountability and Support

Having accountability structures or support networks can provide the necessary encouragement and momentum to stay motivated. Whether it’s sharing goals with a friend, joining a community, or seeking professional guidance, external support can bolster motivation during challenging times.



Self-motivation is a dynamic interplay of desires, beliefs, habits, and emotions. By understanding these psychological facets, we unlock the potential to propel ourselves toward what we want and navigate away from what we don’t. It’s a journey of self-discovery, perseverance, and resilience—an exploration of our inner landscape that leads to the fulfillment of our aspirations and dreams.