A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s as if they needed January 1 to be reminded that maybe they need to eat healthier and exercise more. But if you really think about it, New Year’s Resolutions are a major procrastination technique where you’re supposed to wait for the time or date to be right to begin something. It’s like when you break your resolution by Day 30, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Maybe next year.”
A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself, and the reason many promises find themselves broken is because they are made with a mindset that is different from the mindset with which the’re broken. So come January 1, you’re pumped up and excited about your resolutions because the market is selling you the slogan ‘A new year, a new you,’ and that’s the mindset with which you write your resolutions. Come Day 30 and you just left work feeling weary and subdued, and you know you’ve promised yourself to stay away from Baskin Robbins but it was on your way home, and it might as well have jumped right in front of you because there you are standing at the counter selecting flavors, mentally doing this, ‘
I resolve to stop eating sugary snacks‘.
So what’s the solution to this vicious cycle of making resolutions and then breaking them? Many people delineate solutions and sell them as a self-help book or something, but the most intuitive response involves:
1) Don’t make resolutions that are not important to you. Sometimes you might find yourself making a resolution just because everybody is putting it on their list and it really adds no value to your life. It’s the simple rule of ‘Don’t make a promise you can’t (or don’t want to) keep’.
2) Write down your resolutions. The idea is to take the idea out of your mind and keep it somewhere you can review it occasionally. Some people hang it on their boards, others save it on their phone notes. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
3) Baby steps. When you write down a list of 25 resolutions that will turn your life upside down, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed and give up a a few days later. The easiest way to go around it is to make a few promises to yourself, let’s say four, and work on a concrete plan on how you’re planning to stick to these four resolutions then update your list on a monthly basis.
4) Integrate your resolutions within your life’s auto-pilot system. A system in this context is a collection of habits that you acquire over the years. If you think you don’t have an auto-pilot system, think again. Everyday we do things more out of habit than out of conscious effort. Developing your system requires more than knowing your habits exist. You would need to understand where your habits come from, what the payoffs are (because all habits, whether good or bad have payoffs), and finally, how to change them. But changing a habit is easier said than done. Some habits are so difficult to change, you might want to consider not changing them because the effort is not worth the result. When done properly, having an effective auto-pilot system would help you keep your resolutions even on the days you ‘don’t feel like it’ and are more likely to break your resolutions.
Let’s take an example; come January 2014, you resolve to spend more time with your family. If your auto-pilot system has you work everyday until 8 pm then you go home and sit in front of the TV until midnight, how will you keep that promise? Your system does not support it. But if you force yourself to leave work at 5 pm, and you get rid of your TV, then maybe this particular resolution has a chance of surviving. Think of it in another way, even if you don’t feel like spending more time with your family, just the fact that you habitually make it home by five and have no TV to distract you might force you to do it.
So here’s a challenge for you, write down in the comments section what 2014 resolutions you’ve kept so far?
This post originally appeared on A Heart’s Echoes: http://ahechoes.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/keep-your-resolutions-this-time/