Willpower: Some Help with New Year’s Resolutions

Joseph Maiorano, PhD, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Harrison County 

I imagine that some of you may look forward to something different in 2022. If so, New Year’s resolutions may help you accomplish that goal, but resolutions, sometimes, are easier made than stuck with. For example, thirty percent of people who make New Year's resolutions fail to continue their resolutions beyond February. Some members of that group claimed that they did not have the willpower to continue. In this brief article, I hope to help you better understand willpower. My goal is to help you keep your goals, or New Year’s resolutions.

Different scholars understand will power differently. For example, based on their research, Matthew Gailliot and his co-authors (2007) conclude that willpower requires glucose. Without adequate glucose, willpower may be unavailable. For example, when persons who resolve to lose weight eat differently, they, by virtue of a changed diet, may reduce their glucose storage. As such, those persons may have little, or no, willpower when needed to help them stay on their weight loss journey. 

Job, Dweck, and Walton (2010) have different understanding of willpower. These scholars inform us that willpower is a proactive skill. We use willpower to help us prepare for possible difficulties. What follows is some information on using willpower. Use willpower to,

  • modify the environment. Change things to help reduce or eliminate barriers to success. For example, if you resolved to eat more-healthful foods, then you could substitute healthful for unhealthful foods in your pantry and refrigerator. If committed to spending more time with a friend, then you could schedule one afternoon per month to meet your friend for coffee,
  • ready for relapse. Some persons who resolve to do differently may go back to their old ways. Albert Ellis (2016) might encourage you to “Do don’t stew” (p. 112). In other words, instead of fretting at your misstep, forgive yourself, then get back to doing or not doing that which you initially had resolved,
  • create contingency, or after-the-doing, rewards. For instance, after three consecutive months of meeting your friend for coffee, you might reward yourself with a new book, hat, or cologne.

Instead of trying to muster the pluck to overcome the challenges of sticking with your resolutions, you can proactively use willpower to make a pathway around those challenges. In addition, your successes may help you build confidence that you can continue toward the goal that you had set.

Joseph Maiorano, FCS Educator Harrison County can be reached at 740-942-8823 or maiorano.2@osu.edu. This article is a part of The Thriving Farmer series authored by Joseph. The Thriving Farmer—information to help farmers and their families make healthful choices. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team, https://agsafety.osu.edu/.


Ellis, A. (2016). How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything, yes anything! New York, NY: Citadel Press.

Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, E. A., Tice, D. M., Brewer, L. E., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of personality and social psychology92(2), 325–336.

Job V, Dweck CS, Walton GM. (2010). Ego Depletion—Is It All in Your Head?: Implicit Theories About Willpower Affect Self-Regulation. Psychological Science21(11):1686-1693.


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