The Snap-Back Effect

According to popular statistics, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are successfully kept. This means that 92% of us that are brave enough to set out for self-improvement will fail.

Those aren’t very good odds.

Thankfully there is science that explains this curious “Snap-Back Effect” and offers us tools to make the effect work in our favor.

Snap-Back Effect: A term coined by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the author of Psycho-Cybernetics to describe the rampant self-sabotage of personal improvement goals. Maltz noted that you can stretch a rubber band only to a certain length and hold it only for a certain time until you get weak or get distracted and the rubber band will then snap back to its true shape.

This is essentially what happens when you attempt to achieve a new level of self-improvement. Sooner or later you sabotage yourself and get back to your normal level of achievement.

What sort of person do you believe yourself to be? This mental image of yourself is your self-image.

All of your actions, feelings, habits, and even your abilities, will always be consistent with your self-image. Always. You will “act like” the sort of person that you believe yourself to be. This means that you literally will not be able to act against your self-image for any length of time, despite making a New Year’s Resolution about it, and despite deploying grit, conscious effort and willpower.

Sooner or later you will snap-back to the sort of person that you believe yourself to be.

If you have a "fat" self-image, if you believe that you are the sort of person who "can't resist sweets," if you "are unable to enjoy exercise," then you will not be able to reduce your body fat and keep it off no matter how many times you attempt to turn over a new leaf. Maltz proved that we can’t escape our self-image. You may be able to do so in the short term, but sooner than later you'll be "snapped-back," like a rubber band.

The answer is Self-Image Management

According to Maltz, your self-image is a “premise,” or a foundation upon which your entire personality, behavior, and even your circumstances are built. As such, your experiences will verify and strengthen your self-image, and either a destructive or beneficial cycle, is set up.

In other words, you will seek out evidence that supports your opinion about yourself, even going so far as to create the circumstances for proof to be had.

For example, as a dieter who sees herself as a “failure”-type dieter, or one who is “thick in the waist,” will invariably find that the number on her scale continues to go up. She then has “proof.”

Whatever seems just out of your reach, whatever frustrations you have in your life, are likely reinforcing something ingrained in your self-image like a groove in a record.

Maltz goes on to say, “Obviously it’s not enough to say, “it’s all in your head.” In fact, that’s insulting. It is more productive to explain that “it” is based on certain ingrained and possibly hidden patterns of thought that, if altered, will free you to tap more of your potential and experience vastly difference results.

This brings me to the most important truth about the self-image: it can be changed.

Take time this New Year’s to revise the sort of person that you consider yourself to be. The possibilities are endless!