Have you ever wondered why the gym is so crowded on January 2 and 3rd and has emptied out by about January 10th? Well, there’s actually a scientific explanation behind this phenomenon. Technically, it’s known as the “Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE),” but I’m fond of calling it the “New Year’s Resolution Breaking Effect” because it’s so glaringly apparent right after everyone makes their New Year’s Resolutions.

In a nutshell, the AVE means that how we respond to drifting from our goals determines what happens after we drift. Do we get right back on track or give up? For example, if we miss a workout on January 4th and say something like, “Oh well; I guess I blew it with my plan to exercise this year. I knew I’d mess up. I’ll try again next year” then we are likely not going back to that gym. However, if we are aware of the AVE and it’s power, we can prepare ourselves for drifting/slipping from our goals and increase the chances of returning to our goals.

So, how do you combat AVE? Talking to ourselves in a motivational way can increase the chances we will go back and also addresses the reasons behind our drift. Say something like, “I’m upset that I didn’t go to the gym as I’d planned to. I think going after work is going to be unrealistic because I’m most tired and hungry then. I’m going to try this morning class that looks like fun tomorrow.” In this case, we not only are more likely to go the gym again, but we’re also strategizing for success and feeling OK about ourselves.

Try to keep the AVE in mind while you are thinking of goals you have for yourself this New Year. It is normal and expected that despite your best intentions, you will at times veer from meeting them. Being a great coach for yourself when you wobble will help you get right back on track.