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Say No to New Year's Resolutions. Do this Instead!

January 05, 2022

Say No to New Year's Resolutions. Do this Instead!

No one wants to get to the end of the year, only to have failed. Let's stop setting ourselves up for failure and take these steps instead!

First, I want to distinguish the difference between a resolution and a goal in the context of this article. I dislike making resolutions, but I love setting goals. The difference is resolutions are a rigid decision to do or not to do something. Whereas a goal is about a desired result. 

When we choose goals, we often think "big picture", like get more exercise, eat healthier, or start a new business. Unfortunately, this 'big picture' approach is part of what dooms us to failure.

Go Small and Repeat.

If our goal is more exercise, we need to choose one small thing we can do that starts us in that direction. Maybe we commit to taking the stairs in the morning at work instead of the elevator or decide to take a 10-minute walk. Next commit to this one small step for 7 consecutive days. When you get 7 days in, we can reset the goal to 14 days.  Maybe take the stairs morning and night or take a 15-minute walk. If these increments feel too big, break them down further. Commit to 3 consecutive days and then increase to 7 days. The key is to make these first steps EASY - to set yourself up for SUCCESS, not failure!

Don't buy into the theory of no pain - no gain. Clearly, that does not work for the kind of start that leads to long term success. 

Set Up Cues.

For example, since you already walk through the door at work, let that become a cue for taking the stairs. Maybe you already walk to the mailbox to get the mail, or pick up the newspaper, let that be the cue to walk for 10 minutes. When we attach a new habit to an existing habit, we create a cue and increase the chances of forming new habits successfully.

Get creative with cues. Use post-it notes or audible digital reminders on your phone that you cannot ignore. Put your sneakers by the door. Time an audible reminder to go off when you will be walking in the door at work to remind yourself to take the stairs. If you're desiring to eat healthier, let opening up the refrigerator be the cue. Put all the ingredients to your smoothie in a bag and put the bag where you cannot miss it. 

Ease and Consistency Wins!

In order for something to become a habit, we have to repeat it enough times to "condition" ourselves. Over complicating or making it too big, ensures failure. If you find yourself failing at a desired habit, find a way to break it down even smaller - and work up to more in small increments.

As we get more and more consistent with these smaller steps before we know it, we've established new habits to support a goal with a desired result.

Examine Your Stories.

We all have stories we tell ourselves and these stories drive our behavior and influence our decisions. We'll experience the impact of our stories when we try to do something that doesn't line up with the story. The story will cause discomfort with change and drives us to resist change instead of embracing it.

If we want to change our behavior with new habits, we need to first become aware of our stories and understand how these stories impact us. Do you want to exercise more but your current story is you don't have enough time> Do you want to eat healthier, but your story is it's too hard? Do you want to start a new business, but your story indicates the odds are against you?

Do this exercise. Write down one goal. See how we're keeping things small by only writing down one goal? Write the story you tell yourself about why you cannot achieve it. Be honest. Don't judge yourself. We all do this. It's a human thing.

If your goal is to learn how to relax and be less anxious, then write the story that reads why it's hard for you to de-stress. Maybe you fear this or that, or your mind does certain things, or a person brings dramas into your home or work. Write your story - all of it.

Now, it's time to edit your story. Start on a new page and re-write your story. Write what it would look like if you were relaxed. Write how you recognize and manage your fear thoughts. Write how you respectfully put boundaries around what you will or will not tolerate from others. Tell the story of the person who enjoys a peaceful life.

This might seem too simple, but the research shows that one re-written self-story can reverse engineer old patterns. Read it before you go to bed every night or first thing when you get up in the morning.  Read the new story to yourself over and over to burn it into your consciousness. 

This year instead of making New Year's resolutions choose the science of forming new habits with small steps, setting up cues, building consistency in tiny increments, and write a new story to achieve your goals!

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