5 reasons why making New Year resolutions do not work and 3 strategies making them stick
How can you tell that it is resolution time at the beginning of a new year? Very simple: The ads for weight loss and smoke quitting programs just cranked up and are off the hook on TV. Sure, it makes sense because the end of a year lets you reflect upon the year that has passed and you ponder what you should do with the upcoming year. Before you know it you think about a resolution and come January 1st you start with it.
Problem is that they typically do not work in the long run. The vast majority of folks barely make it through a week or two before they light up another cigarette again, or they end up gaining weight and quit regular exercising. It happened to me, and I am certain it has happened to you as well. In fact I no longer believe in making New Year resolutions (mind you that is different from goal setting). Here are a handful of reasons why they do not work in the long run:
- It is not organic. So you wait around for the end of the year to roll around and then all of a sudden you come up with a completely new pattern you want to establish overnight. Good luck with that. Most changes in culture take time – a lot of time and certainly more than the weeks or months you have dedicated to reach your short term goal.
- Guilt is not a good motivator. Most resolutions are based on “guilting” you into staying on course while you are implementing your new behavioral pattern. What happens when you are sick and tired getting stressed out about your personal guilt trip? It’s stress and neither body nor soul like that stress.
- Peer pressure isn’t powerful enough. You put yourself out on Facebook and perhaps you are brave enough to fess up to your family and friends what you promised you would do to get to your desired goal. So what? Most family, friends, and even co-workers are too polite to ever say a word to you. What is the point then? I do stand corrected with one measure that I have recently come along. Having an accountability partner has been fun and may prove to be the only worthwhile peer pressure tool though.
- It does not deal with the triggers. Your patterns and habits all have certain triggers why and when you do things. You do not deal with the triggers and of course you will go down the old comfy ways – it’s like you are going down a beaten path with the know reward at the end.
- Rarely is there a plan for what comes after reaching your goals. If you are part of the group of people who are successful at sticking to their resolutions and reach their goal, you may end up running through open barn doors. Meaning, that without the pressure and end goal on your mind, your mind will most likely fall into the same habits again eventually as the triggers and rewards will still be around and you just blindly follow them again. Ouch!
Sound familiar? If it does, there is a different way of dealing with changing your bad habits. How do habits, good, bad, or indifferent work? You need three key elements:
- Trigger: Habits have a trigger that is so engrained into your brain that it initiates a certain behavior / action anytime that it comes along. Keep a log of what is leading up to a habit that you want to change. Raise your own awareness about what happens and when. Do not worry that it happens; make sure that you know when the triggers come your way.
- Action: Any trigger sets off a certain behavior that follows it. This is the behavior that you want to make a lasting change to. Log your behavior again and keep this in the back of your head for the time being.
- Reward: Any action has a reward. This is why addicts become addicts. The reward can be so powerful and all but intoxicating you with positive endorphins. This is a drug like substance your body produces and it provides you with a sense of intense well-being – even if the activity is super bad for you.
Now you have 3 key areas where you can make a lasting change. Amend any of the three and you will get to have different results. Instead of telling your brain constantly what you do not want to do, you tell it what you should be doing in order to get a reward. Now you need to define what the reward is. That is the tougher part as you want to come up with something that is fun, or exciting as the bad stuff you want to get rid of.
Do not get me wrong, I am not telling you to not make resolutions. If it works for you, great. Go for it! It has not worked for me. I am asking all the others of you to make sure that you do this with the right reasons and end in mind. Overall I still think that resolutions are the telex and telefax of yesteryear and even e-mail is too slow anymore. Dinosaurs. They are also not around anymore. Take a look at your old dinosaur behavior patterns and think about how you can alter trigger, action, or reward in your favor.
And when you fall off the wagon, do not worry. We are all humans and stuff happens. We will love you the way you are anyway.