“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus
It’s that time of year again, we’ve all made a New Year’s resolution (or five) we knew we couldn’t keep. Every year, I notice an increase in the number of people out for morning runs right after the New Year. And I always think to myself, “Yup, I have not seen that dude before here must be one of his resolutions!”
Over the next few weeks, the numbers start to dwindle until its back to just me and a few regulars I wave at every time I’m out.
Sometimes, it almost seems like resolutions are just meant to be broken. But trust me; resolutions are good, productive ways to set goals and intentions for the New Year.
Why we keep making resolutions—and why they’re so hard to follow? Comes down to the way our brains work. And a better understanding of the inner-workings of your head can help you follow through on your goals for 2017.
There’s one obvious reason why most resolutions fail: We usually focus on goals or tasks that we haven’t been able to achieve over the past year. The other terrible thing about New Year’s resolutions is that making them requires no action. The simple thought—the idea that we intend to lose weight or quit smoking—satisfies our instant pleasure: In the moment, just thinking about losing weight makes us feel good, and we don’t actually have to go out and do the tasks necessary to achieve that goal.
This year, let’s change the language and process around making resolutions. First of all, a resolution can be either a future state: “I am going to make this change” or it can be something that is accomplished: “We set to finish the work on time.” In too many cases when you make a New Year’s resolution, it is future looking: “This will be the year – at some point in time – I will stop smoking.” It’s time to start looking at resolutions in the NOW. What can you do today that will move you to a new place, or more actively start you on your journey?
Action and decisions to change take both inspiration and dedication. All too often a resolution to change something comes from someone else telling you “You need to get out of that marriage and start living a real life!” So as a first step, ask yourself – who really wants this change? Is it me and if so why do I want it? Is it coming from someone else, and if so what’s their motivation for me to change? It’s important when goal setting or defining a future state to first experience, right now, the “why?” behind what you want to do. Whose goal is it and why does it matter?
So, if you’re going to make New Year’s resolutions, here are some tips to help you make them work:
- Focus on one resolution, rather several;
- Set realistic, specific goals. Losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 5 KG in 90 days would be more achievable ;
- Don’t wait till New Year’s Eve to make resolutions. Make it a year long process, every day;
- Take small steps. Many people quit because the goal is too big requiring too big a step all at once;
- Have a close buddy, someone close to you that you have to report to;
- Celebrate your success between milestones. Don’t wait the goal to be finally completed;
- Focus your thinking on new behaviours and thought patterns. You have to create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits;
- Focus on the present. What’s the one thing you can do today, right now, towards your goal?
- Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment by moment, rather than living in the past or future.
Instead of thinking this could be your year for change, think “today is my day for change.” Start right now and just keep moving!