According to a recent poll of 4,000 adults by Cancer Research UK, almost four in 10 people break their New Year’s resolutions within a fortnight, and only one in 11 will still be sticking to them in six month’s time. Be it stopping smoking, quitting chocolate or alcohol, or going to the gym, the biggest problem with sticking to your goals is what is known in CBT as Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT).
LFT is a key factor in procrastination, the art of putting off until tomorrow what you can actually do today.
It’s also that annoying little part of you that sacrifices your long-term goals (not drinking for six months, for instance) in favour of your short-term comfort or hedonism (say, getting drunk and so-and-sos birthday three weeks into January).
In terms of everyday language (or the thinking behind it), it’s expressed in terms such as, “I can’t stand it,” or “I can’t bear it a moment longer,” or, simply, “oh, fuck it!”
Low Frustration Tolerance tells you that you cannot stand going without that cigarette, that a life without chocolate is unbearable, that going to the gym is too hard or the staying sober in a room full of drunk people is just too much for you to bear.
Subscribe to it, and you will give in, each and every time.
But, LFT is a crock. It’s simply not true that you cannot stand going without. A lobster cannot stand being boiled in water – it dies. You, however, will not die if you go without chocolate, beer or cigarettes. Staying sober in a room full of booze-soaked revellers is hard, to be sure, but it will not kill you.
LFT does not help you, it does the opposite; it’s the language of giving in and giving up, of reneging on your well-intentioned resolutions and then beating yourself up for doing so.
Develop High Frustration Tolerance (HFT) however, and you are on to a winner. HFT states that, no matter how difficult or trying staying true to your goal may be you most certainly can stand it and that it is in your best interests to do so.
HFT is true: going without and staying true to your goal is hard (sometimes doubly so), but it will not ever kill you.
Endorsing this ethos also helps you to develop resolve and stamina and keep your best interests in mind.
Your best interests are your long term goals (all the good reasons that had you making your resolution in the first place) and, if you focus on these, you are more likely to withstand your short-term need for comfort (i.e., that cigarette, pint, chocolate bar and so on).
And the more reasons you can find for letting go of your LFT belief and endorsing your HFT belief, the more robust you will be in the face of temptation.
And, by-the-by, the top three New Year’s resolutions for 2013 are, apparently, saving money, getting out of debt, and losing weight, closely followed by changing jobs, stopping smoking, stopping drinking, spending less time at work, spending more time with family and friends and giving up chocolate.
Top tips on sticking to your resolutions
- Be realistic
- Pick one resolution, not several
- Put it in writing and stick it somewhere prominent
- Break your goal down into small, achievable steps
- Reward yourself in some way when each step has been achieved
- Enrol a friend or friends to collaborate with
- Set daily or weekly email reminders to keep your focussed
- Develop High Frustration Tolerance