This year, I’ve been reading up on why some resolutions work and others don’t. There’s the obvious answer: we’re way too unrealistic in the setting of the goals. But then there’s the impatience factor. We say we want it, and we’ll work for it, but if we don’t see the results we want STAT, we whine, “This doesn’t work,” and we quit. And how does quitting get us to our goals any faster? Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. Here’s what does:
Practice Gratitude Ahead of Time.
Speak in the past tense about things you want to accomplish as if you already have. You can come up with an elaborate, very detailed account of everything that’s happened in the year 2018 and how grateful you are for each accomplishment.
Practice Wanting the Things You Already Have
Make Sure You’re Climbing the Right Ladder
And that the ladder you’re climbing is leaning against the right wall. That is, a lot of us work to climb to the top, only to realize we’re unhappy once we’re there. We were going after the wrong dream. “How do you know you’re on the right ladder,” Oprah asked Stephen R. Covey. “Joy will clue you in every step of the way.” I don’t much care if you buy into the wrong ladder bit or even the idea of a final destination, or a “top,” or even the idea of “right” or “wrong.” I care more about the idea that you should be clued into your best life by the joy (vs. pleasure) you’re experiencing as you live it.
Be Clear on the Emotions You Want to Experience
In years past, I’ve found it really helpful to name the emotions you want to experience. Ask yourself, how will I feel once XXXX happens? What’s the feeling I want to experience? Then focus on practicing the thoughts that create those specific feelings. Act as if it’s already happened, it’s already your reality, and live in the vibration of those feelings. That’s what they say. That you’ll then attract more of the same. I’m still working on this one, to be honest, but I do believe that it helps clarify why you want what you want.
Don’t make grand resolutions. Make Tiny Habit changes.
The idea here is to identify a habit that you know will serve you, that will help bring you closer to your goal, but you need to make this habit super attainable, easy. Next, you have to identify a “trigger” you’ll associate with this new habit. For example, every morning, when I wake up (trigger), I’ll drink a cup of water (tiny habit). And once I’ve successfully accomplished this new chain reaction, just once, I’ll reward myself with a happy dance, or a small praise, “You’re awesome!” Once this new habit becomes part of your routine, you can add new tiny habits to other pre-existing habits to create new chain reactions that serve you. More on this in his lengthy TedX video with BJ Fogg:
I found these additional techniques, which I thought were worthy of sharing. Below Dr. Hafeez, a New York based neuropsychologist affiliated with Columbia University, shares key insights on how to make New Year’s Resolutions that stick.
Envision the end result and reverse engineer it.
According to Dr. Hafeez, neural pathways in the brain can be changed through a combination of visualization and aligned action. She encourages people to journal about what it is they want. Write it all out. “How would life improve? What would all the benefits be? Cut pictures out of magazines of what you want and post them to a wall (or if appropriate, the refrigerator). Get very clear on what you think you will feel like once you see results,” she recommends.
Get clear on your triggers.
Set yourself up for success by understanding what may potentially get you off track. Sticky resolutions come with planning. If you want to lose weight then begin with clearing out your fridge and cupboards of junk food. That in itself is an action that will tell your brain that you are serious. Get recipes and write out a new grocery shopping list. Writing plans, micro goals and ideas that serve the greater accomplishment you’re reaching for creates “buy in” from your brain, says Hafeez.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
For the people resolving to save more money Dr. Hafeez says to evaluate when and why you spend. If you notice you spend $40 a week on coffee, think of alternatives. “You don’t want to cut yourself off from anything cold-turkey. The brain doesn’t respond well to deprivation. It sends brain chemicals that signal displeasure which is what makes resolutions lose their stickiness. Shift to a possibility or curiosity mindset. Asking yourself, “what can I do to save $5 per day” invites in inspired thoughts and creative ideas. Same goes for weight loss. Ask yourself the right questions: how can I create weight loss for myself today? That’s been a practice in my life that’s worked.
“The reason why resolutions don’t stick is because people set the bar way too high and expect achievement way too fast. Think of every week as a win! Break it down into weekly chunks and train the brain to value quick accomplishments,” she advises. The people who resolve to lose weight and get more exercise won’t stick to it if they don’t celebrate small milestones and try to do too much too soon. Resolve to lose 1 to 3 pounds per week. Do this by cutting out soft drinks or juices and drinking water instead. After 10 weeks you”ll be 20 pounds lighter with great skin just because you did one thing week by week until it became your new normal.
Trick your brain by making it fun.
“Our language and self-talk is everything and determines if our resolution will fade or will become something we’re still doing in June,” says Dr. Hafeez. “When someone resolves to change their diet, exercise and lose weight they already envision how difficult it is going to be so they are already dreading it before they started. However, shifting the brain to doing something fun that is in line with the goal gets you more committed,” she adds. Create a playlist of great music to work out to. Look up recipes on Pintrest to build your new shopping list. When you do the advance preparation that is more fun, and take small steps towards building the new lifestyle to support your resolution, you’re setting yourself up for a win.
Fuel your resolution with greater purpose worth committing to.
If you want to resolve to save more money, it’s is helpful to have a clear purpose for the money you plan to save. Resolving to save more money is vague making it hard to remain on track. Saving more money to take an amazing vacation or to purchase a home or car is something tangible you can stick to. “It’s common for people to commit to doing something when they connect it to a greater purpose beyond them or an experience they want to have. This explains why lifetime smokers can instantly quit when they learn they are pregnant. It’s not about them anymore. We see the man who is 75 pounds overweight lose weight when his daughter gets engaged. Whenever we can connect resolutions to a bigger purpose our minds get on board, and when the mind is all in, resolutions stick,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
About Dr. Hafeez:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.