6 Ways to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick
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I have set myself some goals for 2017. I did the same for 2016 and how did it go with them? Everyday life took over and from mid-January on I forgot to keep an eye on them, so only a few of my eight very good intentions was manifested.
It's so easy to set goals, but harder to carry them out, and more often that not the good intentions evaporates in pace with the demands and interruptions of everyday life and with the disruptions of the mechanisms of the unconscious mind that’s not so keen on changes. Hence the reason I have dusted off my old books on the old goal setting theories, cause I want to make a big leap forward in 2017. Please join me on this take trip, if you like, and let us share our journey. Experiences, tips and pep talks are very welcome on the blog.
For further knowledge about dopamine and the reward system in the brain I can recommend my previous blog: Hack brain and use cravings to your advantage.
Achieving goals starts with:
Prioritizing the objectives, so the focus won’t be spread too thinly.
Setting specific goals.
A little planning.
Anticipation - to be prepared for pitfalls that inevitably will show up on the way - life rarely adapts after one's goals, often the contrary.
Check yourself for self-sabotage patterns (make agreements with Ego)
As the old saying above says, you get nothing if you focus on numerous things. You need to adjust your fore sight on one goal at a time.
If you have several goals you want to achieve, make a list in order of priority and focus on the first one first and so on. "Zero in on your target." As the Dalai Lama once said.
Prioritize realistically. Check out what goals that can go well with everyday life. For example (bluntly) – if you’ve just given birth to twins, maybe 2017 is not the year you should set yourself up to do an Ironman, if you understand what I mean, but perhaps rather set the goal of squeezing in 15 minutes of exercise a week.
2. Be specific
When you have decided on your resolutions and their order, then make sure that the goals are as specific as possible and write them down as visually as possible - perhaps with the pictures.
The brain doesn’t work with unspecific intentions such as: "I want to lose weight" or "I want to write a book."
If your deepest desire is to lose a stone, you could set a goal that you want to be able to fit into a particular piece of clothing and then visualize yourself in that dress or those pants in size. 8 - or whatever one's desire is, just keep it as tangible and visual as possible. If it is family you spent more time with, you can put a specific number of hours per week as your goal, and something about howt you want to spend these hours.
If it is more exercise you want to incorporate, then find out what "more" is. Is it a run twice a week? Is it a six-pack? Be specific, so the brain knows what to work towards.
If you want to stop smoking, then visualize / imagine yourself as a non-smoker as precisely as possible. Your smother skin, see yourself in all situations (in contented as well as in stressful) without a fag. See yourself as a happy non-smoker, etc..
- And don’t forget your goal should be something you’re truly passionate about. Motivation is important.
After you’ve written down your goals, keep them with your at all the times. By reminding yourself about them continuously, the brain will automatically switch to remembering the long-term goals and ignore the quick fixes that will have negative effect on them – and just by keeping your goals within your (minds) eye all the time tends to manifest them unnoticeable at some point in time.
Important. The key to creating your own cycle of success is to set a grand vision and work your way there with a few, achievable goals that’ll increase your likelihood of experiencing a positive outcome.
So if, for instance, you want to lose 20 kilos in 2017, you can have 20 subsidiary goal of loosing one kilo a week - and remember to celebrate each win. The cultivation of small wins will propel you to bigger success,
3. Plan now
Is it the five kilos, you want to get rid of or do you just want to live a healthier life, then make sure that all sweets and other sinful food, drinks and stimulants are removed from your home and from the office drawer and replaced with the healthy stuff that your chosen diet suggests. Make subtle changes to your home or work environment. Keep your running shoes by the door, your yoga mat unfolded, dumbbells or what your new lifestyle requires visible, store fruit in the same place you store cookies and so on. Make sure your mind is constantly reminded of the goals.
- How much time / energy do you need to set aside for the goal, and how to work towards it?
- Make sure too be reminded of the goal often. Maybe hang up an image of the target.
- Make a list of the things you need to buy and then go buy them now.
4. Be prepared for the classic pitfalls
The outside world rarely understands ones wish for change. We humans are social animals and often react negatively to change - our primeval instincts tell us that new behaviour might threaten something. So when you begin to show willpower and drive, you will also at some point encounter resistance from your social circles that prefer the "old you". You are very likely to have to relate to comments like: "Don’t go fanatic". Or: "One small piece of cake won’t hurt." And: "You have to enjoy life too." When this happens, know that their reactions are not about you, but all about them – you might just be a reflection of some kind of guilt.
When you remain in the same social circles that herd mentality is what also makes it's hard to change. Bringing matters to a head – you can compare it somehow with rehab programs. Those who manage to get out of their addiction, are those that leaves the environment where deleterious behaviours run.
A less drastic move could be, that you for a period of time, bypass the colleague who has homemade cake or sweets lying on the desk. And stay away from gatherings in the first few months where it’ll be hard to stay on the path of virtue - and when you find your partner lying on the couch with a bag of sweets in one hand and an ice-cream in the other, then remind yourself of your long-term goal - because you can actually train your mind to want what is good for you. And at the end of the day don’t be surprised if you suddenly find that new people with the same passions / interests as you start to show up in your life.
“Life is what happens, while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon once said. Everyday bustle and distractions are the main goal killer. The flu, which slows down the good exercise routine, the minor problems that has to be solved here and now, trips that disrupt the rhythm, bills to be paid, extra responsibilities that pop up out of the blue, and one day you have lots of energy and the next nothing. That's life. Accept it and prepare for it. Use an evening to think through different typical pitfall scenarios. What usually go wrong and how to address them best.
5. Self Sabotage Patterns
"Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn't happen." ~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
We all happen to get in our own the way sometimes; and some do it repeatedly and often quite unconsciously. Self-sabotage can be identified as procrastination, being too busy with something else, drinking, or overeating, but it can also show up as injuries, accidents, conflicts, diseases, etc. No matter how it is expressed self-sabotaging behaviour results from a misguided attempt to rescue ourselves from our own negative feelings. It may be that you daren’t stand on to the new stage of development, have a fear of failure or a fear of disappointing yourself.
Where Does Self-Sabotage Comes From
Self-sabotage can have many causes. It may be that previous experience / influence taught us that we couldn’t succeed. It may be an unconscious feeling of not deserving success, a lack of belief in ones abilities, feelings of guilt of doing well, a lack of self-esteem, or simply just that the sensible and the rebellious part of the brain don’t completely agree on the plan. Where the sensible, practical part, which has planned the entire process, and is ready to press start, hasn’t matched the expectations with "the rebellious, inner child" whom might already feel that everyday life is pretty hard and dull as it is. When the two parts of the brain don’t cooperate, the rebel will often have great success in obstructing all reasonable action plans.
Look in the mirror. How have you previously sabotaged your progress?
5 Typical self-sabotage patterns
1. Fear of success. The ego generally doesn’t feel good about change, so if you have decided to lift yourself to a higher ground in life, it will provoke the ego, which basic purpose is to safeguard your survival. Thus a desire to change lifestyle, change careers or to lose 20 kg will provoke the ego, which will perceive the new road as vulnerable and dangerous, because it believes that the new "I" might alienate you from friends and family. Or fear of success can simply have to do with a feeling of guilt or I-do-not deserve-it-really.
Strategy: Make the following clear for yourself: Yes, there is some safety in staying under the radar and remain the same old you because success IS more complex than failure and perhaps more responsibility comes with it.
Solution: Look at everything that might seem troubling about the new situation - the new identity. Analyse everything that can go wrong with the increased responsibilities, then embrace it and be aware of how this new you will toughen you to perform bigger and better things.
2. You postpone. "Later becomes never,” a wise lady once said to me, and experience has showed me that she's right. "I’ll do it in the afternoon when I have more time" is a phrase I’ve often said to myself, only to later follow it up with: "I do it in the evening when all is calm." and then nothing happens.
If you’re on a diet or trying to stop smoking, then the ego will whisper phrases like: "I can eat this cake if I skip dinner,,," or "a single puff on a cigarette at the party's ok." But no! Because that will NEVER last, it only evokes inner monster. Although the arguments for postponing are always reasonable, you’ll never achieve anything with that strategy. Once you’ve postpone, then the game is over. Postponing solves nothing, it only makes the self sabotaging behaviour more harmful.
3. You Quit When the Going Gets Tough. When you think that everything is hard and the results of serious and dedicated efforts fail, then a highly creative voice inside you will show up and entice you with lovely alternatives, that can help ease the situation and give a quick-fix of short-term reward and a little feel of joy. But that quick-fix is often the first step down the sabotage road.
Strategy: Next time you feel the urge to quit, let your analytical brain take over by considering these four steps:
- Ask yourself what’s behind your desire to quit?
- Is it fear of not being able to do something successfully?
- Is it lack of knowledge you need to complete a task?
- Is it because you find the project overwhelming or it takes too long?
- Find out what you can do to overcome each obstacle. For example:
- If you feel fear of not being successful, what will it take to get rid of the fear (can you practice doing something daily to make it more doable and less vague and therefore daunting to you)?
- If you lack knowledge, where and how can you learn what you need (which resources, books, films, or mentors can you ask)?
- If you find the work overwhelming, how can you make it less so (which technique can you use to manage your time better)?
- Take one small step every single day to make progress in your work.
- Start your morning with this question: What is the ONE THING I am committed to completing today? This will force you to prioritize your tasks so that you focus on only one. The benefit: you can direct all your energy to completing one task, so you can benefit from small wins which will add up over time.
- Use a timer to divide up your work: Set your timer to 30 or 60 minute increments, or use the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break). The benefit: your brain can focus better when it’s working in shorter bursts, and you’re less likely to get tired and demotivated to continue.
- Take frequent breaks: When you’re done with a segment of work, step away and do something that will give you a chance to get re-energized: take a short walk, eat a snack, listen to music, do a targeted 15 minute workout to get more oxygen flowing to your brain, read a few pages of the book you have on your nightstand.
- Always remain connected to your WHY.
- Remind yourself of the purpose and the value of your efforts so far by asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Getting to the root of your why will help you keep in mind the bigger picture, instead of feeling lost in the challenges you are currently facing.
- Make the connection with the initial reasons for starting to do something: you wanted to learn a new skill, you started researching a topic you’re interested in, you are studying for an exam so you can graduate and get a job, you are currently in a role that is challenging but can provide a step up in your career, you are an entrepreneur exploring a business opportunity, you’re trying to solve a problem that will open new doors of opportunity for you.
4. Inconsistency between ambition and the rebellious inner child. If you’re a strict vegan who eat only whole, organic food...except when you drive to 7-Eleven to suck up sweets like an industrial Shop-Vac. Or an ambitious, conscientious employee who have a knack for oversleeping, procrastinating and spacing out on appointments when something important is happening at work. Or an accountant, who prides yourself on squeezing every penny until it screams, yet frequently goes on shopping binges that keep you in permanent credit card debt.
Many bad habits are actually a subconsciously attempt to handle a deeper self-sabotage - one you rarely know exists. In order to eliminate the obstructionist behaviour on the surface of your life, you’ll have to adjust the delusion you keep buried.
We all have at least two contradictory people in our body. The first is a miraculous, intricate animal, one whose worldview focuses on food and frequent cuddling. Concepts like cholesterol levels, mortgage payments and PowerPoint presentations mean nothing to it. It's all about joy. The second being is a brilliant logical thinker, almost like a high-powered computer that processes abstract concepts with ease.
When your animal and computer selves are after the same goal, the two-beings-in-one arrangement works wonderfully. Say you're a morning person and you work the morning shift. No problema! You know broccoli is good for you, and you love broccoli. Hooray! But when your computer self tries to force your animal self to do something it doesn't inherently enjoy, you run into trouble. Self-sabotaging trouble, to be exact. In fact, self-sabotaging is almost always your animal self rebelling against not-so-much-fun conditions imposed by your computer self. The computer self builds a sort of cage of obligations and beliefs. Bad habits are your animal self's attempt to ease its distress while living in that cage.
Strategi: To soothe your animal self, you must first become aware of your inherent desires and the times in your life when you're disallowing them. Begin by getting a pen, some paper and half an hour to sit still. Then make a detailed list of things you plan to do tomorrow. List actions both small and large: showering, making breakfast, carpooling, feeding the goats, acquiring a corporation, holding up a liquor store—everything on your agenda.
Now think about the bad habit you're trying to break. Feel the compulsiveness that accompanies it. Relax your breathing and read over your to-do list. As you imagine performing each activity, notice how much you feel like engaging in your self-sabotaging behavior. Put a number by each item: zero if it doesn't make you feel the least bit tempted to indulge your bad habit; ten if it makes you jump right up and rush to the fridge, a bar, a slot machine or wherever you go to self-sabotage.
This exercise can bring you face-to-face with some scary truths. Someone you call a friend might turn out to be mainly a binge buddy. Your job may make you want to smoke all sorts of things. Calling your mother may trigger your desire to gamble. Beneath the familiar urge, you'll find a sensation of constriction, one that may feel like weariness, sorrow or terror. Instead of beating and deriding your animal self for feeling this way, move on to the next step.
Solution: Once you're aware of your self-sabotaging triggers, it's time to deploy your brilliant computer mind—not to stifle your animal self, but to let the pair work together to create a life that feels freer and more nourishing. Considering each self-sabotage-inducing item on your list, ask:
- In a perfect life, would I do this thing at all?
- If so, what would I change to make it more enjoyable?
- If not, what would I rather do?
Let your imagination roam as you consider the last two questions. Think of alternative activities that aren't just concepts but images, pictures that make your animal self perk up, relax or both. Don't limit yourself to what's logical, doable or even possible. Dreaming it doesn't mean you have to do it, but guess what—if you never dream it, you'll never do it.
5. Accidents and injuries. Accidents and injuries often happen at inattentive situations or during the hustle and bustle, but can also be an unconscious self-sabotage pattern. Check whether you previously several times have had to give up a goal because of injury, illness or accidents.
Strategy: Analyze honestly the underlying cause.
Cultivating gratitude starts a virtuous circle and can thus have a powerful influence on one's life. The brain only has so much power to focus its attention on. On top of that our brain loves to fall for the confirmation bias that is, it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true, and the dopamine reinforces that as well. So once you start to be grateful for things, events, situations, people etc. in your life, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. That’s how the virtuous cycle gets created.
Happy New Year
Books I can recommend:
All information in this blog is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by The Danish Health Authority. The products linked to in this book and any information published in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided by this blog is not a substitute for a faceto-face consultation with your physician, and should not be construed as medical advice. The entire contents of this blog are based upon the opinions of Hanne Robinson. By reading and using this blog, you agree to only use this publication for personal informational use and not as a substitute for medical or other professional advice.