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On January 1, positive feelings surround the clinking of the champagne glasses and the vow to make changes in the new year. For a moment, our feelings of self-disappointment, defeat, and frustration get replaced by hope and optimism.

But are we using the promise of change to fix our feelings and NOT to fix our behaviors?

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, in her book The Willpower Instinct, describes “false hope syndrome”: we imagine a future change and it helps us to feel better about ourselves, but it does not necessarily lead us to follow through when we are tempted by our old habits.

Dr. McGonigal reminds us that a “dash of pessimism” is actually helpful when we are trying to make and maintain changes. After we make resolutions, there is an important second step that involves anticipating the obstacles to change, and then planning how to deal with those obstacles.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself to get started:

  1. When will I be most tempted to revert back to my old habits?
  2. What are the excuses I am most likely to use to avoid the new, healthy behavior?
  3. What disruptions to my routine do I anticipate that might “throw me off?”
  4. What people, places, thoughts, and feelings will distract me from my resolution?

Planning for future temptation will make you prepared with specific strategies to use when your self-control wanes.

For more thoughts about New Year’s change, check out heidibeckman.com.

How do you deal with “false hope syndrome?”

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