New Year is almost upon us. This annual celebration usually brings, booze, countdown kisses, fondling, and sometimes sex, but most importantly it brings resolutions. For a few months after the NYE celebration many of us start working on those goals but after a few months the work stops, and the goals become once again wishful thinking. I’m sure you guys have seen this phenomenon inside the gym. On January 2nd (the day after the hangover) the gym is crowded with people who wish to lose weight, and then come March the gym looks like a biblical reaping with most people gone and only a few people left behind.
But why do so many fall off the wagon? Why do we fall into the ‘NYE Resolution Curse’? According to statisticbrain.com this NYE many people wish to:
- Lose Weight
- Get organized
- Spend Less, Save More
- Enjoy Life to the Fullest
- Stay Fit and Healthy
- Learn Something Exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Help Others in Their Dreams
- Fall In Love
- Spend More Time with Family
But most will not accomplish these goals and the answer as to why is quite simple; they would fail to make a habit out of their objectives. A goal will not become a habit unless it is ingrained into an automatic mechanism. To do this one can just swap an unproductive behavior with the desired pattern, like swapping eating a donut for breakfast for an oatmeal with bananas instead. Doesn’t it sound easy? The trick is to be consistent and develop an automatic behavior.
I read or more like listened to the audible books “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “The Now Habit” by Dr. Neil Fiore. I read these books to stop my procrastination patterns. I did this because I noticed myself sabotaging my personal progress by either putting things off or stopping before I completed a goal. I knew that if I let this go without doing something, it will get out of hand and hinder me from reaching my potential and fulfilling my dreams, and that scared me!
After reading these books, I was able to learn how to curve the unproductive behaviors and change them into productive ones. I’m not saying I’m perfect and have eradicated all my unproductive ways, but am way better now than two years ago, and will continue to get better while putting into play everything I’ve learned.
Before reading these books, I had several questions about unproductive patterns of behavior and how to change them. Now I can answer them.
a. Why do we stop?
Because we did not build a habit of it. To develop a habit it takes time and consistency, your brain needs to learn a new pattern of behavior. For example, if you want to lose weight, you know that you must eat healthily and exercise. These are two habits that you must change. First you must find out why you are not eating healthy, what your triggers are. Do you eat out of boredom? Frustration? To fit in? Or to socialize? Once you find what triggers the unproductive behavior, you must plan a way to change the actions of that trigger. The trigger will not go away, but your actions to it can.
For example, if your trigger is boredom and you tend to pick up chips as something to do to relieve your boredom, then you need to change the action of eating chips when you get bored. You can do this by making yourself get up and walk for five minutes, grabbing some water instead, or play a round of solitaire whenever you get bored. The same with exercising. You will want to make a habit some form of exercise as soon as you hear your alarm clock go off. Instead of hitting the snooze button, do five crunches in bed, lunge to the bathroom, or do some jumping jacks as your water warms up in the shower. Make your brain expect some form of exercise at a particular time till it becomes a habit and you do it automatically. The whole point is that you would need to change one pattern of behavior for another and continue to do it till the new pattern of behavior is the norm.
b. What happens if I stop?
All success come with a little bit of failure mixed into it. The point of these failures is to learn from it. If you happen to revert to your old habit, look back at your plan and see why that solution did not work. It could be that you misidentified your trigger or did not put a strong enough solution in place. Don’t freak out, just go back to the drawing board. Write it out, draw it out, make a video about it, do something visual so that you can see your previous plan and why it did not work. This will help you to draw out a new plan without falling into the same mistakes as the previous one. It could also be that you just need to keep it that same way and that you fell off the wagon out of fear, laziness, inconsistency, whatever. It’s ok; maybe you needed that kick in the ass-you suck-failure to put that fire in you and make you start again. If that is the case, just start once more, at least, you are not doing it from the beginning, and your brain is more aware of whats going on and will pick it up faster. JUST DON’T STOP.
c. How can I motivate myself to do it?
It’s all in your head. I know you have heard that many times before, or maybe you haven’t heard it at all. In that case, let me tell you ITS ALL IN YOUR HEAD. In the “Now Habit,” Dr. Fiore makes it point to iterate how one talks to oneself or others when talking about future actions. Take a moment to listen to yourself talk. If you say ‘I think,’ ‘I may’, or ‘I have to’ you are either doubting yourself (‘I think,’ ‘I may’) or making yourself do something you don’t want to do (‘I have to’). If you speak with doubt, your brain will doubt as well, and this will show in your actions. If you are forcing yourself to do something, your body and mind will find a way to reject it and sabotage that plan. Instead of saying, “I think I’m going to start my paper today” say “I will write my paper today starting at 8:00 am and start with the introduction”. The latter is a thought that is positive, determined and has a plan as opposed to the first one that has no plan and no decisiveness into it. To say, “I have to get up early to do 10 minutes of exercise” is an unproductive thought because you are forcing yourself to get up early. First, think about why you want to do it. What about exercising is beneficial to YOU? Think about those benefits and tell yourself instead, “I want to exercise in the mornings because it makes me feel more energize through the day, and it will help me to create a healthy lifestyle’. But you must want to do it and for this, you must find what’s in it for you. Realize that YOU decide whether you want to do something or not, when you find the benefits in a goal and remind yourself of this each and every day, you will continue to get up early every morning to have your 10 minutes of exercise because you know how great it will feel afterwards and all the other benefits that YOU will get out of it.
d. I’m intimidated at first, and I can’t start.
Totally normal. Sometimes our goals can be exciting, fabulous, and scary all at the same time. You want to do it; you know you must but just starting or finishing it can seem daunting and impossible. Then break them down into smaller less intimidating goals. If you want to get organized as the number two most common NYE resolution, and you don’t know where to start, and then start small. Maybe do your closet first, or if you are like me, and that’s too much I’d start even smaller. For example to organize my closet I would start with my shirts first, and then shorts, then jeans, and then sweaters, till my whole closet is organized. Then I tackle another room in the same way till my goal is completed. At the same time, I have music playing in the background, which makes it fun, and it motivates me to keep going. I also look at Pinterest at all the clever organizational ideas they have.
e. Any other tips?
Yes! Share your goals and dreams with someone else. Make yourself accountable by writing them down, joining a group with the same interest or dragging a friend who is hunting down the same goal to join you in your pursuit. When you share your goals with someone else, you will be reminded of your promise whenever you are around this person or group of people. Let the thought of failure, bring the feelings embarrassment, shame, and guilt. I know this sounds horrible, but these feelings will push you to succeed or at the very least to keep trying till you do.