4 Simple Ways To Have A Better Shot At Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

Jan 1 2014, 5:46pm CST | by

Two out of three of us make New Year’s resolutions. Only 8% keep them.  What’s the deal?

A colleague sent me an article today, from the Atlantic, about why we don’t keep our resolutions, and what to do about it. The main point of the article: most of what gets in our way is inside our heads.  The author notes that changing our mindset, rather than changing our behavior, is  key to change. For example, the top New Year’s resolution people make, year after year, is to lose weight.  Most of us know exactly what we need to do differently to lose weight (move more, eat less, focus on making healthier choices); the behaviors aren’t complex or mysterious.  What’s tough is to think differently.

Here’s an approach to doing just that.  Instead of focusing your resolutions on stopping your bad habits (eating too much, smoking, not spending enough time with family), think of them as learning to do something new (eating healthier; finding new ways to calm and de-stress; discovering shared activities that appeal to you and your family.)   Once you’ve reframed your resolution to focus on what you want to learn, apply these four key steps:

Make sure you really want to do it. If you’re attempting to make a change because you think you “should,” or because someone in your life has been pressuring you to do it, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be successful.  At the end of the day, we do the things we most want to do.  Ask yourself: “If no one else cared whether I made this change, would I do it?” If the answer is no, then I suggest you either give up your resolution (sorry about that), or find another way to think about it that does resonate for you. For example, you may find you’re not actually interested in losing weight – but you really want to be strong and healthy. Focus on learning how to do that.

Be accurate about yourself. If you want to learn something new, you have to be honest with yourself about where you’re starting from. For example, if you’ve been smoking a pack a day for 20 years, and you tell yourself quitting is going to “be a breeze” – that’s not helpful.  It will be more helpful to say to yourself something like, “I’ve been addicted to this stuff for a long time, and it’s going to take a real effort to find new ways to meet the needs that cigarettes fill for me.” It’s also important to be honest with yourself about things that might get in the way of your learning – things you may need to change.  For example, maybe your resolution is to become more active. Upon reflection, you realize that you think of exercise as boring and difficult. Acknowledging this truth will help you see that, in order to be successful, you’ll have to either change your self-talk about exercise or find ways of being active that are fun for you – or both.

Get interested in what’s possible.  Which brings us to the third key to learning.  Once you’re sure this is a change you want to make, and you’ve been as honest as possible about where you’re starting from, get curious about how you could make the change. Curiosity is key to any kind of human growth — from toddlers acquiring speech, to scientists making world-altering discoveries. For instance, getting curious about how to overcome your negative  beliefs about exercise might involve talking to someone who’s a late-onset exerciser, and finding out how he or she did it.  You might look for articles about how to change your self-talk, or you might investigate types of activity that you’ve never done but think might be fun.

In addition, you can respond to your own negative predictions (“I’ll never be able to do this”) with curiosity; “Why do I think that?” “How can I change the way I’m thinking about this?” “What can I do to get a different result?” Genuine curiosity has the power to break through most of the limitations we place on ourselves.

Be willing to be not-perfect. I suspect that the vast majority of people who make New Year’s resolutions start out doing the new behaviors they’ve targeted: for a few weeks they eat healthier, or don’t smoke, or drink less. Then – inevitably – one day they hit a speed bump: they eat a big gooey dessert, or cadge a cigarette from a friend, or have a few too many beers.  Most people at that point throw up their hands and say to themselves, ”I’m a failure. I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep this resolution.  I might as well go back to my old, bad ways.”  But there’s a powerful antidote to this – and it’s the final key to learning. Remember that, when we’re learning something new, we always make mistakes. There’s no such thing as being expert when you’re a novice. Think about when you were learning to drive, or ski, or cook: there were a lot of jerky stops/face plants/burned pans involved.  If you think of your new habit as something you’re learning to do, something at which you’re a novice, you’re much more likely to accept the fact that there will be stumbles along the way. And then, instead of taking a mistake as an indication that you’re doomed to failure, you can get curious about why it happened, and what you’ll do differently the next time…and keep learning.

If you shift your resolution focus from Here are all the bad things I’m going to stop doing to Here are a few new things I intend to learn how to do... this time next year, it’s much more likely that your life will have more of what you want, and less of what you don’t want.  So, here’s to your happy, healthy 2104, chock-full of discovery and growth….

________

Check out Erika Andersen’s latest book, Leading So People Will Followand discover how to be a followable leader. Booklist called it “a book to read more than once and to consult many times.”

Want to know what Erika and her colleagues at Proteus do? Find out here.

To acknowledge Erika’s contribution as a business thinker, vote for her here as a Top5 Speaker in management and business.  Thank you!

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Carla Bruni to lend voice to combat Ebola
Paris, Nov 22 (IANS/EFE) Former model and former first lady of France, Carla Bruni, will lend her voice to the French version of the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise funds to help combat Ebola.
 
 
Spanish health worker flown home after possible Ebola contagion
Madrid, Nov 21 (IANS) A Spanish health worker with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) arrived back in Spain Friday morning from Mali after being deemed at risk of contagion from the Ebola virus.
 
 
Japanese government concerned by yen's rapid fall against dollar
Tokyo, Nov 21 (IANS/EFE) Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso Friday expressed concern over the sharp depreciation of the yen against the dollar this week, and said abrupt movements in the foreign exchange market were not beneficial to the Japanese economy.
 
 
WHO declares DRC Ebola-free
Geneva, Nov 21 (IANS) The World Health Organisation (WHO) Friday declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Kris Jenner keen on Kourtney and Khloe double wedding
Kris Jenner wants Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian to have a double wedding. The 59-year-old manager reportedly thinks Kourtney should marry Scott Disick and Khloé should marry French Montana during the same ceremony for...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Miley Cyrus and Patrick Schwarzenegger planning holiday
Miley Cyrus and Patrick Schwarzenegger are planning to go on a romantic holiday. The 'Wrecking Ball' hitmaker is said to be smitten with the 21-year-old hunk - the son of Hollywood legend Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kelly Brook's Winter Chunderland
Kelly Brook was nearly sick at London's Winter Wonderland attraction yesterday (20.11.14). The 34-year-old model attended the VIP launch of the annual festive fair in Hyde Park, and admitted to feeling worse for wear...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Katy Perry and will.i.am to cover Imagine for UNICEF
Yoko Ono, Katy Perry, will.i.am and David Guetta are among the celebrities who have recorded a cover of John Lennon's 'Imagine' to raise funds for UNICEF. The star-studded cover will be accompanied by an interactive...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Spanish health worker flown home after possible Ebola contagion
Madrid, Nov 21 (IANS) A Spanish health worker with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) arrived back in Spain Friday morning from Mali after being deemed at risk of contagion from the Ebola virus. MSF confirmed the female...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Ukraine accuses Russia of cross-border shelling (Roundup)
Kiev, Nov 21 (IANS) Ukraine Friday accused Russia of carrying out cross-border shelling against Ukrainian positions in the eastern part of the country even as pro-Russian separatists put the toll in the ongoing...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Obama set to be chief guest at India's R-Day (Lead, changing dateline)
Washington, Nov 21 (IANS) Signifying a renewal of the India-US strategic partnership, President Barack Obama has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invitation to join India's Republic Day celebrations as chief...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Chinese court upholds life sentence against Uyghur activist
Beijing, Nov 21 (IANS/EFE) A court in western China has upheld the conviction and life sentence handed down against Uyghur activist Ilham Tohti, who appealed the sentence when it was first passed in September, one of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Matt Smith to star in Patient Zero
Matt Smith has been cast in 'Patient Zero'. The former 'Doctor Who' star has signed on to appear in the infection film which will see him have to cope with the aftermath of a worldwide viral pandemic across the Earth....
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Mick Jagger praises 'amazing' Chadwick Boseman
Sir Mick Jagger claims Chadwick Boseman is ''amazing'' as James Brown in the singer's biopic 'Get On Up'. The 71-year-old Rolling Stones rocker co-produced the movie and praised the young actor for his portrayal of the...
Read more on Movie Balla