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This time, you say to yourself, this time I will do 50 chin-ups every day or skip dessert or call my mother every Friday. It’s time to do those things that I know, I really, really know I should do.

And then you don’t.

According to British psychologist Richard Wiseman, 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure. Those are his findings from a 2007 University of Hertfordshire study of more than 3,000 people.

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How come so many attempts at willpower lose both their will and their power?

Jonah Lehrer, one of our regular reporters (he writes all the time about the brain), told Jad and me about an experiment involving the prefrontal cortex, located just behind the forehead. It’s the brain area largely responsible for willpower. This hunk of brain tissue, he says, has greatly expanded over the last few hundred-thousand years, but “it probably hasn’t expanded enough.” The reason our willpower is so often weak, he suggests, is because this bit of brain lacks a certain (how shall we put this?) … muscularity.

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