New Year Resolution First-Aid
New Year’s Resolutions going well?
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, we’re often being a tiny bit optimistic. I think we mostly know this. Looking at what happened in previous years, it seems a big ask to expect this change to work. Largely we’re driven by guilt at what we didn’t achieve last year and how much we ate/spent/over-indulged/lay around over the holidays. We don’t mean to be lazy, so we think we can redeem ourselves with the New Year Resolution rod of iron.
Sadly, if we look at the science of how our brain really works, we begin to see why this probably won’t bring results. Indeed why 92% of resolutions fail.
Our caveman brains
Our brains are wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain and minimise effort. That’s how we’re designed to survive, procreate and thrive.
By ‘avoid pain’ I also mean avoid any danger, which in the modern world includes not just running out of food, avoiding injury and not eating cane toads, but also a mental smorgasbord of possible ills, such as job loss, social media trolling and running out of mobile coverage. The list is endless. And so is our brain’s monologue on the perils we are about to encounter.
These days we call this ‘anxiety’, but it’s just our brain doing its job of keeping us safe. Just like it’s doing right now, prompting you to flog on with your resolution, however fruitless.
‘Seeking pleasure’, ‘avoiding pain’ and ‘minimising effort’ is what many of us have been doing over Xmas, and now we feel we have to pay the price (literally and physically). We’re annoyed with ourselves about our excesses.
What we know about achieving goals though, is that we are motivated more by the carrot than the stick.
Hating yourself in to getting thinner, richer or more active doesn’t work.
Hence the 2-3 day lifespan of most resolutions!
If you did make a resolution and are DETERMINED to stick to it, here are some tips on achieving goals, so you can impress yourself and all your friends! Good luck!
Or ditch them – here’s what really works
From my previous post Manifesto for 2019, I wonder if a manifesto isn’t equally or even more useful than a resolution? It has no time limit and can be effective all year, with no sense of failure if it falls flat in week one. I like it very much because it sits in my mind, quietly working its magical way to fruition. Also, it’s very carrot, no stick.
To back up my manifesto, I make a list of quarterly ‘Fails’. These are new endeavours that I want to achieve within the quarter, mostly for my business. I make them ambitious -things I’ve never achieved or even tried before – but I allow that I will possibly fail all of them.
My discipline is only to try my best, complete each task and learn from failures. There’s no place here for perfectionism or retribution.
There’s no obligation to succeed, but I must make an honest effort to achieve each one. So really this process can’t fail! I’m bound to learn something useful from each experience and if I fail, I can adjust and re-try. This again is all carrot and no stick.
My brain will resist each task madly – telling me I will surely die if I try it (‘avoid pain’) – so the discipline is to ignore its warnings and go hard for each goal. Massive action is required, along with some planning and tight scheduling. Many skills are involved, but in the end the fact that I try generates enormous self-confidence that I can do hard things that I believed were beyond my reach.
The nice thing about fails is you’ve taken the pressure to succeed off yourself. Truly successful people aren’t afraid to fail their way to success. Perceived failure is just a stepping stone.
Whichever way you look at your self-improvement plans, you will need to build up your confidence, commitment and self-esteem to pull them off. This is the coaching work that I do, and I can help you with your goals if you wish.
If you would like to talk to me about achieving your goals, book a free mini session here:
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