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False Hope Syndrome: Why People Make New Year Resolutions And Fail

With the new year around the corner, people are all set with their resolutions. Some are planning on going on a diet while many are making up their minds about quit smoking or drinking. These efforts to improve ourselves and creating our new version may or may not be successful for everyone. Nonetheless, the attempt to self-change gives us a feeling of satisfaction, which is better than the regret of not trying at all. [1]

According to a study, the concept of repeatedly making and breaking resolutions are called 'False Hope Syndrome' or FHS. People believe that self-change is easy, which makes them set high goals for themselves which are often unrealistic.

What is False Hope Syndrome

In simplest terms, FHS is a small self-change effort by setting up new endeavours to bring a positive impact in our lives. Before beginning with the concept, let me ask you all a question. How many of you have witnessed people changing their habits after taking an oath? Well, the number of successful people in these cases may be a few and they really deserve appreciations. But what about the people who had failed? Those people often keep trying, again and again, to bring new changes in their lives because they believe in achieving the goal no matter when. That's when the 'false hope syndrome' comes into the picture, the false hope of changing ourselves and bringing benefits in our lives.

Why People Try To Change

It's natural that people expect good things in return for their change. For example, millions of people make new year resolutions to lose some pounds in return to become attractive or live a healthy life. We believe that changing a small aspect of ourselves will give us internal benefits and confidence to live our lives in a better way. Also, self-changing attempts may bring a sense of control to succeed better. However, people should be aware of realistic and unrealistic expectations of change before making any resolutions as the failure may psychologically affect some people. [1]

Realistic Vs Unrealistic Expectations

False hope is connected to the expectations we often make for the outcomes. People should be aware of the difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations. There are four main categories in which expectations become unrealistic. They are as follows:

  • The amount of change expected
  • Speed of the change
  • Ease of accomplishing
  • The outcome of the change

For example, a person had made a goal to lose weight this year. The question is how much weight they want to lose (10 pounds or 20 pounds), how quickly they want to lose (in one month or three or six months), how they think of losing weight (by changing diet plan or exercise) and what are their expectations from the weight loss. The realistic version of these is losing around 15-20 pounds in 4-6 months by a proper exercise and diet plan to get a healthy life. On the other hand, the unrealistic version of the following comes when people make an ambition of losing their 20 pounds by a miracle in one month. Such overconfidence often lands them in failure. Thus, false hope comes when people want to achieve their aim quickly and easily and when they don't achieve it, they get frustrated and give up on changing. This phenomenon is the illustration of FHS characterised by a false sense of confidence.

View Article References
  1. [1] Polivy, J. (2001). The false hope syndrome: unrealistic expectations of self-change. International Journal of Obesity, 25(S1), S80.
Story first published: Tuesday, December 31, 2019, 19:00 [IST]