Most likely you didn’t…Stick to your guns, that is.
Popular studies say by now most of you have let your 2013 New Year’s Resolutions go out the window.
If you decided to stop smoking, stop eating junk food, watch less TV, or stop being mean to your boyfriend/spouse/kids, you are practically guaranteeing failure. An old adage (you’ve probably heard) says, “What you resist persists.” It is in fact, true.
If you want to know why you are not a failure for letting your resolutions slide, and how to make resolutions you’ll keep, read on!
First, let’s understand what went wrong. Your decision was probably made on a cognitive level. But knowing something cognitively isn’t enough to cause a change in behavior. In fact, the harsher you judge yourself and the more attention you give a specific ‘problem’ the more likely you are to continue the activity.
Quantum physics tells us that simply labelling a problem, actually perpetuates the problem. Rather than trying to change or give something up, what you actually need to do is eclipse the attention you put on your bad habit.
“How do I do this?” you ask? Instead, try putting attention on curiosity and emotion.
“The problem with changing bad habits for most people is that they rely way too much on motivation and will power when they should be focusing more on prevention and social engineering strategies,” Says Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D.
We are addicted to bad habits because they are serving us at an emotional or sensation (or both) level. When you take a drag on that cigarette, or eat the big mac, it gives you a pleasant sensation. This is the juice for you. Maybe not the good kind of juice, but juice never the less. To make yourself give up that sensation, it takes more than a smart (cognitive) decision. It requires the promise of a new, more fulfilling sensation and the accompanying emotion.
“What could that be?” you ask? Your curiosity for the sensation you desire and the emotion you imagine you will feel when you reach that is the foundation for change in your life.
Recently I ran into a colleague who I hadn’t seen in some months. She whispered in a conspiratorial tone that she had “big changes” underfoot. She confided that she had a plan to quit smoking and the plan was to put all the money she would normally spend on cigarettes toward cycling classes at a nearby fitness studio. Her eyes were bright and her body radiated aliveness. From this it seems she has a high likelihood for reaching her goal. She identified a sensation she desired and she was already excitedly anticipating the emotion accompanying that sensation.
Another colleague says he plans to make a specific amount of money this year so that he can afford the lifestyle he desires. He very clearly visualizes the details of this lifestyle and the feeling that goes with it. So far this year he says he is more productive, focused and clear than he has ever been and sees himself easily reaching the goal and experiencing the joy of achievement.
Still another colleague has been successful in reaching her goal of weight loss not because she is forcing herself to exercise more or prevent herself from eating treats, but because she enrolled her boyfriend in a no-wheat-for-a-month commitment. Together they are exploring recipes and meal preparation that don’t involve wheat. At the beginning of the month they both agreed that it would be temporary and they would have the sweets they desire after a certain amount of time of being wheat-free.
Today is the day they of the commitment and the day they had planned to reward themselves with sweets. But when I last talked to her, she says they actually have no desire to indulge in that, so they are postponing it for another period of time, and substituting a more healthy ‘treat’ as a reward. Actually the real reward is the pleasant sensation of fitting into her jeans and feeling team spirit and support with her boyfriend as they explore new food choices.
What these three examples of success have in common is each person identified a game and/or created a team. Mia Sage, co-founder of Sage University Coaching and Leadership Training says, “Games give birth to the human spirit. They release a man from the limitations of the human body.”
If you want to reach a goal, you must create a game based on a spirit of pleasure and play, or you have no chance to reach it. If you recruit a team of players (ie. family members, boyfriend or co-workers) who want to also reach the goal with you, or at least support you to reach it, you are even more likely to achieve the result you want. Social engineering at its best!
Social engineering is the technical term for creating your environment to ensure your success. Recruiting a team to support you or play with you is the social part of the equation.
Rather than relying on your willpower to choose to not indulge in the behavior you want to quit (because that won’t work!) create an environment where the choice is eliminated. Or, set yourself up for success; create scenarios where it’s easier to choose a desirable behavior over an undesirable behavior.
One of my goals this year was to spend more quality time with my kids. If I made a ‘To do’ list and put that on it, it would seem like a chore or a problem. Chores and problems have a low likelihood of being enjoyable and that is not the point of having ‘quality’ time with my kids. I didn’t want to try to make myself do something else in an already full schedule.
Instead, I asked myself what is the sensation I most like to experience…what does my body naturally have an appetite for? The answer is speed. What brings speed is wheels. Coincidentally, my boys love speed and wheels too! So since they got new bikes for Christmas I decided I should get a new bike too. I did.
Now it’s so easy to spend quality time with my boys because all we have to do is just hop on our bikes and ride around the neighborhood. It’s easy and it’s fun. I do it because I want to do it. My environment is set up to support the decision to spend quality time with my kids. Every time we pull into the garage, I see my
beautiful purple hybrid bike I want to jump on it!…and off we go!
If you want to be successful this year, instead of asking yourself what you want to change, ask yourself what’s the sensation you seek? Whatever it is you want to do, create a game to get yourself to do it, and recruit a team to support you. Most of all, have fun! After all, the point of a game is to play, not to win, right?