How to Make (and Keep) a New Year's Resolution
So, you're making a resolution for the New Year. Well, more than half of all resolutions fail, but you could be the outlier this year. We'll explore how to create the right goal for you, as well as, plan and execute them. But, before that, let's get some fundamentals established.
What Makes Bad Habits?
Bad habits come in many forms. It can be from your environment, level of pleasure, or even the people who you spend the most time with. It is fairly easy to see when people get bad habits from others. It's the most apparent since one can compare another person's behaviors to how they used to behave.
The next bad habit comes from the level of pleasure. To explain why some bad habits come from the level of pleasure, we'll have to understand what a good habit is. What is a good habit? Eating healthy? Having a high level of emotional intelligence? Well, whatever the idea is, it comes down to how much pleasure one has performing a particular task. Specifically, the amount of dopamine and serotonin released into your brain. Usually, people have a difficult time making good habits stick, since less dopamine and serotonin are released. This is why fighting against addiction is a real issue globally.
Finally, the environment is even less apparent. Why? Because our brain loves consistency. When this is disrupted, it is called cognitive dissonance. For example, when Lee Robins studies the effects among US soldiers with heroin addiction during the Vietnam War. To this effect, 20% confirmed that they were addicted to heroin, but when they came back to the US, less than 1% relapsed. In fact, she had data on every soldier. In this case, the change in the environment has changed the perception of the veterans. While, there is probably more to it than just the shift in the environment, there is something to be said in this study. Furthermore, why do many billionaires retire to small towns? It isn't because of the people, in fact, there aren't that many people to begin with. They are sick of the stress that they have previously had in big cities.
What makes resolutions fail?
What is the difference between a wish and a dream? Wishes are just things you want but are not under your control, while, dreams are like goals. You have a purpose, and an end destination or result in mind. Let's say that you want to become an astronaut when you were little. If you really want to become an astronaut, there are steps to becoming one. But, let's say that if you want to go to the moon, well, that's another story. The latter is not as realistic as the former. While, being an astronaut is no easy task, one has a goal in mind while the person who wants to go to the moon does not have any plans set. Usually, resolutions fail because they are:
- Influenced by others
- Too vague
- Not planned out well
Remember that motivation is a feeling of inspiration, and as time passes, inspiration also has its ups and downs. The Law of Diminishing Intent, coined by Jim Rohn, states that the longer one waits to do something now, the greater the odds it will not happen. Before you make a resolution, make sure that you can do it, and that it is something that you can integrate into your lifestyle. After that is established, there are a handful of useful acronyms such as SMART, and KISS to make that goal a reality.
A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, & Time bound. While KISS stands for Keep It Super Simple.
Some Tips and Tricks to Achieving Your Resolutions
Good or bad habits, it's a habit nonetheless. If you want to eliminate a bad habit, eliminate the trigger from your life and routine. For example, you want to spend less time on social media. Well, there are programs and applications that can be used to restrict an allotted amount of time on the site or even application, essentially doing the hard work for you, but it will further reinforce the need because it will be on your mind. After all, social media is made to keep you on it. If you delete it completely, the distractions will be minimized for home use only. This concept is called out of sight, out of mind. With one caveat, there needs to be a substitute, otherwise it becomes a desire. While social media is, in essence, the ability to not only to keep updated, but also, a way of communicating with friends and family. The substitute can be as simple as using Slack at work (Not for personal conversations, of course). It really works, and it ultimately reduces the appeal of checking your social media. It also applies to eating healthy meals. If you don't buy the snacks and junk food, the urge to eat it will be gone. Think about it, would you really drive to the nearest convenience store or supermarket to purchase something that you know you shouldn't be eating in the first place? Probably not. But, at the same time, you have some tasty healthy "snacks".
Make it Personal
As the adage goes, "You can fool others with your lies, but you can't lie to yourself". Similar to this point, the act of doing it for yourself is key. Motivation can only lead you so far. The rest is up to you. People don't like to be told their faults, so why would one think that they could convince them otherwise? You have to understand that you have a problem, and you want to fix it. What is a resolution than a statement of personal growth? You feel inspired to fix something that you know you need fixing.
Hope for the Best Plan for the Worst
Unlike competing with others, the real fight is with yourself. Change is inevitable, but adapting to that change is within your grasp. Easy said than done. It's called practice, and life experience. But, before you get to that point, your mental state will be shaky at best. To mitigate this, plan as best as you possibly can. While practice makes perfect, planning makes it easier to adapt to changes. That is why having processes is key for any business. However, I believe that it could apply to life as well.
Break it Down Into Bite Sized Manageable Steps
The one thing that doesn't work in any field or industry is having one big project with no milestones. Milestones are not only used to measure progress, but also to see when something is working properly. Without these pivotal moments, the task becomes a very tall order. You can even see this in courses. In many cases, the information is broken down into 2 to 4 minute chunks. They do this to first allow the student to absorb as much information as possible, and most importantly, this method allows an increase in a higher likelihood of completion.
The same goes with goals. You are not going to run a 5k marathon with no training at all.
Some common hurtles people have when they first start out
It's too hard, I can't do it anymore!
- This is your first hurtle. Keep on doing it until you get it. If you don't understand a concept in a book, read it again and again until you get it. Think about this, no one is an expert at birth. They worked on it until they knew more than others.
I'm not getting any closer to my goal
- Chances are you probably won't until you understand everything. Sometimes you need to know everything to understand one thing. But, remember that you will be there soon enough. Effort in equals effort out.
- But, if that doesn't work, look back at your progress where you first started out. Small milestones sometimes work best for people.
- How I learn is by creating projects. It becomes easier to understand the concepts when you know where you need to focus on, and what is important and not so important at the time.
I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s not working.
- Motivation can only take you so far, and, in fact, it might hinder your progress. Since, it isn't a pain keeping you up all night, the little hurtles will just deter you from progressing. Remember, that Rome wasn't built in a day, nor were the billion dollar industries you see today. The stories seem fantastical and super easy, but if you think about it, who wants to admit their mistakes when they don't have to? The term personal, in personal growth, is key. If you don't have a need or passion to figure it out yourself, it won't fix itself.
I Missed My Goal
- Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries to invent the lightbulb! Think about that for a second. How many times have you tried to accomplish your goals? Setbacks are nothing to get stressed about, no one's first project was perfect, a perfect example would be on AppSumo. Entrepreneurs sell their side projects and startups. Some of them really should be worked on further before releasing it for customer use.
Some Resolutions and Tricks We Recommend
As Victor Frankl a holocaust survivor once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” Attitude matters in any situation, social or otherwise. It can build character, push you forwards, and most of all, take your life in the right direction. Mental health can be your best friend. Note that this is not a replacement for real crippling mental problems. Please consult with your doctor for professional advice.
Resolution 1: Meditation
Meditation is a great way to quiet the mind. I personally, don't like to use that phrase, since it is really meant to de-stress, and be present/in the moment. By that, I mean, less worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. It allows you to think objectively. Through, mindful practice, it can be a great asset in times of turmoil. It not only provides the mental fortitude, but also the healthy lifestyle you deserve. With a busy schedule, it can be hard to get that time to yourself. Meditation doesn't have to be an hour-long journey through the vastness of space and time, but rather keep it simple. Don't expect anything immediately. In this instance, practice does make progress. Try it for a minimum of 2 months, and try to increase the time you mediate progressively.
Pro tip: Use some Buddhist practices in conjunction with meditation. You don't need to be Buddhist to practice their rituals and methodologies.
Trick 1: Write & Think In The Third Person
Ok, just trust the process, not the person. This method will clear your emotional fog. Have you ever felt overwhelmed when you tried to make decisions? In times of pure hell, where you feel as though you are in between a rock and a hard place, you feel flustered in the fact that you can't make a choice. It is your life after all. Well, this is because you are too close to the situation at hand. Personal matters can cloud your judgement. When you distance yourself from the situation, you can make better decisions. This is where thinking and writing in a third-person narrative comes into play. You already know what to do, but your thoughts about personal matters distract you from choosing that option.
Trick 2: Find a Community or a Person Who Will Keep You Going
No one said that you had to do it alone. Just by being in the company of like-minded people, can keep you motivated. Encouraging you to keep at it, and helping you with problems along the way. If you don't like being in a large group, another way to do this is by having an accountability partner. They can push you when you need it. Like a kick in the butt. Lastly, you can remove the human element entirely and set instructions that you'll do something that is worse than death, something that will hurt not only your wallet, but also your soul. Most people usually take the path with the least resistance via donating to a good cause or sending money to a personal rival.
Trick 3: Measure, Measure, & Measure
Unlike in video games, life doesn't have a scorecard or a dashboard that will tell you how much you've leveled up, nor how many more practices or knowledge points you'll need to get to the next level. That is why you should keep a record of how you've progressed. A great way to do this is by journaling. Make a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly summary. I'm not going to tell you how you should write your journal, but the point is, when you look back, you'll see where you started and where you are now. Some recommendations are, The BestSelf Journal, Freedom and Mastery Journal, Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Journal, and the James Clear Journal. If you'd like to write a journal, without the set parameters, I'd highly recommend checking out Benjamin Hardy Journaling Course. But, there are many free articles if you'd like to know more about it.
Resolution 2: Building Agency
As Paul Napper describes agency, it "is the ability to act as an effective agent for yourself — it requires getting your mind, body, and emotions in balance to think clearly, advocate for yourself, and make choices that create positive things in your life." Saying that the seven principles of agency are control stimuli, associate selectivity, move, position yourself as a learner, manage your emotions and beliefs, check your intuition, and be deliberate, and finally, act. To find more information about this, you could either listen to this podcast by Brett McKay or purchase the Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.
No matter if you have busy lives or have common resolutions like the millions of people around the world. There is no perfect time, but the present to get on it. As the Chinese proverb goes, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." That means that there is no such thing as a perfect time, but the chances are that if you begin now, it will be a good start. We have talked about a few ways to stick with them, like avarelle patches, and mental models to stay motivated of sorts, since motivation is not consistent.