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Fresh Start: How To Make New Years Resolutions Work
Having trouble making your new year’s resolution work for you? We owe the idea of the New Year’s resolution to the most basic form of human fulfillment: Progress. Unfortunately, eighty-percent of you are dwindling in confidence, resolve and are about to throw in the hat completely, statistics say.
Constant improvement is a cornerstone of being able to live a life that worth much of anything at all. We need to constantly be aware of the three forces at play in our lives: Reverse, Park and Drive. We want to be in drive. The way things work out, most of us are in reverse, and the luckiest among us are working knuckles off just to stay parked.
Do you not feel like every time you try and better yourself something works against you? You had the best of intentions too! You were going to get off this, or do more of that, put more of this good thing in your life and less of this bad thing.
A New Year’s resolution is about taking care of yourself and your life, which you have every right to do. Making one last is more about you being involved in your future: what is your health, personality, appearance going to be like down the road if you don’t continue? You must keep with it if you’re going to succeed.
You know exactly how to make a new year’s resolution, and a good one too. I know all of you had some serious ass-kicking in mind, so what happened? I know exactly what happened, and if you read all the way through, you will find out the secrets that separate those who keep with it and those who flop and get left behind.
You might even be surprised at how basic some of the proven techniques for making new year’s resolutions work are!
Don’t Fight Something Bigger Than You
Makes sense right? Unfortunately, most people who are perfectly capable of keeping a resolution all year fail because they are trying to fight something with weapons that aren’t big enough.
A new year is one of two things: breaking a habit or instilling one.
The point here is that we already have habits in place. We are doing something in place of what we are trying to do more of, or we are doing something that we are trying to do less of. In order to be effective with our goals, we need to get rid of a habit by forming new ones.
Let’s say you are trying to include more exercise. This would mean that in place of exercise, you have a habit of not exercise that you need to break. If you are trying to eat less, then you have a habit of eating too much or the wrong foods that you need to break and replace with another behavior pattern.
This simple switch makes all the difference. In order to do something, we need to understand what we are doing.
Your resolution is really not that difficult at all, you just have a behavior that’s ingrained and difficult to get rid of. There are plenty of people who wake up each morning and exercise, don’t immediately turn to the fast food or candy bars, and it’s not difficult for them because they have made it a pattern for them. Once this happens, it’s smooth sailing.
They do this by resisting and replacing.
When you resist what you are trying to get rid of, you will not be feeding it any longer, and everything requires energy to survive. Starve it, and it dies. This is made easier by simply replacing one habit with another habit because habits are mostly physiological, they exist in your brain.
Everybody knows that the key to living a successful life is routine. Not boring stuff, but making foundational behaviors automatic. This needs to happen or you are going to be fighting yourself for the rest of your life.
Let’s crush a myth right now, those who achieve great levels of self-discipline in life, are not people who are knights of the round table fighting the evils of their cravings for sugar each day. Not even the slightest. They are people who lasted long enough to make those new behaviors habitual.
When that happens, it’s easy as pie from then on. That’s all you have to do. Seriously. I didn’t stutter. All you need to do to make your new year’s resolution work is push through the painful switch, and last long enough to where your body readjusts and makes that your new behavior pattern.
You’re probably wondering how to do that.
It’s Your Brain’s Fault
It’s not your enemy, but the way it works does make it seem like it’s fighting against you. First of all, your brain is set in its ways, and when your senses take in something your brain recognizes will give it the reward of pleasure (cue) it causes you to pursue that (action) and acquires that reward. So there you have it, the system of going back on your sacred vow is as simple as seeing, hearing (etc) pleasurable, moving towards it and doing it. Resolution broken.
This is bob. Bob has a new year’s resolution to take fewer naps and get more exercise. He makes his new exercise time the time he usually takes a nap. So Bob comes home and sees his bed (cue) his brain remembers the reward and pleasure of feeling the warm bed, being lazy for a while and falling asleep.
How could bob switch this around to his advantage? Well, bob could take his sheets and pillowcases off the bed each morning and throw them in the closet. This would allow him to rewire his brain and the CUE ACTION REWARD sequence. When Bob sees the bed, his brain remembers the reward, but then he also remembers that his bedding is in the closet, he has this new years resolution he is trying to keep going with, and if he wants to take a napski, he’s going to have to go all the way downstairs to his pantry (do what you have to do people) and get it.
If Bob continued this each day his bed (cue) would no longer be associated in his brain with reward, making it much easier for him to forego the nap and move towards the exercise. Now let’s say that bob has a stereo in his living room, where all his workout equipment is. In bob’s stereo is all his favorite music (reward). Not only this, but bob knows that it’s important to consume protein and carbs after a workout. Bob loves to cook, and he loves to eat.
So now Bob is in a situation where he has altered his brain’s perception of his bed making it easier to skip the nap, and working out is appetizing because his brain associates it with two of his favorite activities (cooking and eating). Simple as that.
For some of you, this might be the only thing you need to keep going. Start to take your resolution and associate it with reward by combining it with things that you find pleasurable, like working out and then cooking your favorite meals with your loved ones after (or even a hot shower).
FUN FACT: The first time you resist temptation is the hardest, and then it becomes exponentially easier. You will feel a pull to revert back to your default behavior. DONT! It get’s easier each time you choose not to.
Crush temptation with Keystone Habits
Luckily, you don’t have to rely on willpower alone to force ourselves into a new healthier skin. There are things we can do each day that will make us much stronger when it comes to fighting the rubberband-like force that wants us to snap back into default behavior.
A keystone habit is something you do each day that makes doing all the other things easier. They are habits that reset you when you are depleted of something. Keystone habits regulate your energy, focus, brain power and stress. They are healthy in and of themselves and are highly recommended when it comes to instilling other habits as well.
- reduces the risk fo disease
- decreases depression anxiety and stress
- regulates brain chemicals and energy
- benefits weight loss, muscles, and bones
- increases relaxation and quality of sleep you obtain
- good for your skin
- increases your memory
The wonderful thing about keystone habits is that they are like the superfoods of activities. Even in the shortest amounts, physical activity can provide these benefits. Try taking a walk the next time temptation creeps up on you.
If exercise is not something you are having trouble with, including it in your routine is an easy way to make your resolutions work.
- evokes mindfulness of our thoughts and emotions, allowing us to go deeper instead of having a numb experience of our lives
- reduces stress by providing an outlet. in essence, your journal will listen to you when nobody else will.
- helps us understand ourselves when we have to work to put our feelings and experiences on paper, it requires us to organize them
- allows us to understand exactly what we are doing. the raw data of what foods you are eating, what emotions you are experiencing, what thoughts you are having are there and you have to face them.
- helps achieve self-discipline. Setting aside time to journal each day forces you to stop and focus. This counts as a small win.
- boosts self-esteem and mood by regulating intangibles like confidence but also affecting brain chemicals.
Set aside time to journal whenever you can. Ideally in the morning when you have to plan your day and at night when you need to reflect on your day.
I started this blog because I noticed the knowledge I had was genuinely helping others when they took it seriously. Sometimes this comes with a bit of tough love. If you are not meditating in 2018 you are seriously behind. It’s literally a science now people, as real and beneficial as going to the gym. Get on it, or you’re going to look like a dummy.
- increases mindfulness and self-awareness
- somehow seems to make us want natural happy lifestyles and encourages us to go for them
- regulates the parasympathetic nervous system when you breathe through your nose during (fight or flight)
- reduces stress
- increases energy
- promotes positive thinking, increased memory, and concentration
- increases gray matter in your brain (brain cells) and makes white matter more efficient
Meditation literally makes you superhuman, and if you are foregoing this habit, you are “leaving money on the table” as they say.
Apply these habits practically to your Resolutions
- Insert some physical activity in the morning to get you started. You will notice that you have more energy, and it gives you time to think clearly before starting the day
- Whatever it is you are trying to do, write it down. Keep a journal of all the foods you eat, or of how many days you have successfully completed without doing this, or doing that. Record how you feel each day and what effects you are noticing.
- Its simple, meditate. If you have some hang up with meditation, make some time each day to reset and breathe for a while. It really does help. They don’t tell you to count to ten, or to breathe for no reason. These two things are time and your breath, which are all that is necessary to take anxiety and stress and reduce them to almost nothing. FACT.
Use Your Why As A Weapon
You had a reason for doing this. It might have been to take better care of yourself, to inspire those you care about to better their lives, to provide for them by making yourself more productive, or to just prove to yourself that you could do it. Whatever it is you decided to accomplish in order to live happier, use that as a weapon. If the reason is strong enough, you will always win. To be strong enough, it needs to be deep inside you and evoke enough emotion to motivate you even when impulses come.
Remember, the impulses you experience are nothing but CUE ACTION AND REWARD. Noticed them for what they are: the transient activity of the brain. All you need to do is wait long enough, and it will dissipate, and you can go along with your day.
Combine this with meditation, physical activity, and journaling each day, and you will be unstoppable at making your resolution work for you.
If you find that your motivation is still lacking, and you are procrastinating, you might not actually believe in your “WHY”.
One of Michael Jordan’s most powerful assets was his ability to visualize. Please listen because this is huge. There are some of you out there who have an amazing capacity for accomplishment but just don’t know it yet. If you feel like you have a powerful imagination, this is for you. A visualization is a tool used by high-performance athletes and successful entrepreneurs to further ensure the success of their goals and desires.
The most recent science I have found, calls the power of visualization “mental imagery”. Further, it is categorized as a kind of pre-perception, meaning, the brain activity corresponding to visualizing is actually a form of perceiving what is happening.
When you pre-perceive, you have already done most of the work and are more likely to succeed when it shows up in your external reality. In order to better achieve victory, you should first know what victory looks like. When you have a powerful visualization of something, you notice, assess and react to it faster.
Try visualizing what you look like when you are successfully resisting temptation. Add feelings to that. Understand how you feel knowing you triumphed over something that previously you had struggled with, and sense how powerful you are and how helpful you can be to others who may struggle with the same thing. For all we know, an issue you had could be ruining someone else’s life.
The power of visualizing also helps your brain transition from being concerned with events, which means reaction, to being concerned with processes, which denotes thinking and analyzing. When you make this switch you are more likely to sense an impulse to relapse and go automatically to “No, its just a CUE ACTION REWARD” situation. My brain is acting up again, Ill just fight through the pain. It’s minor really, and in a few minutes it will be over and I will be fine.”
Dopamine (it’s a TRAP)
It’s a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good, and it happens to be quite addicting. It’s not bad, we just need to understand it better to power through these resolutions and make ourselves better. We deserve that don’t we?
It releases everytime your brain picks up on something that it normally associates with reward.
When Bob sees the bed, his brain releases dopamine.
- Then he starts to want the bed because his brain is making him crave the reward it’s used to getting.
- If he caves and goes for the bed to take his warm snuggly nap, he gets the reward
- If he resists, no reward. This is why we switched the CUE ACTION REWARD mechanism in your brain in an earlier section. (ESSENTIAL)
The brain tricks us into thinking we will become happy by caving to our temptations, but the reality is grim. Dopamine really can be a trap, because when you give in to this craving, all you are getting is “relief from the anxiety of not getting the reward”(Martin Meadows). What kind of nonsense is that?…
- Dopamine is capable of being triggered by any of your senses, not just sight. So literally, hear, see, smell, touch and speak no evil. Very important!
- If you persist long enough, the cravings will get intense for a few minutes, but they will always fade. Have the courage and stamina to wait.
- Remember to use the technique above in the section about Bob and his bed to realign your dopamine triggers
- Get individual wins for yourself to bolster your confidence. Small wins make all the difference. They mean progress, which means happiness, less stress etc…resist for five minutes.
In order to make your new years resolution work you will need to use you make dopamine your ally instead of your adversary. Whenever something pleasurable happens in new and exciting ways, it has a habit of rekindling the spark you once had. Going to the gym might become dull, but not if you try different ways of exercising each week.
Eating healthy can be dreadful, so make sure you understand all the different ways to spice things up and achieve the same result. Your brain will respond favorably.
Pitfalls To Making your New Year’s Resolution Work
Often we fail to maintain our vows because we do not understand things in the proper order.
This is how we think:
- If I don’t do this now (cave to temptation) I risk losing everything good that comes from it (pleasure, maintaining your bad habit)
What we need to do is switch it around:
- Think of the reward as how you look, think, act and feel in the future having made your resolution the habit instead
- You will be fit, attractive, happy, productive etc…
- Then think, if I do this now, I will lose those rewards in the future.
The difference is that the reward in the future becomes the main focus. You are no longer satisfied with the weak reward you get now. You want something better, if you cave, you won’t get the reward, and you’ll stay miserable.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may be compensated for your purchase at no extra cost to you. Read the full Disclosure about my affiliate practices here)
I get all the knowledge I put in these posts from reading. Come to think of it, where else would I get it. The following books are HIGHLY (as in do it now) recommended by me for your development and especially for maintaining your resolutions to better yourself, new years or not. Our common sense says “make a change” it will make you better, while something evil inside says “it requires too much”. Listening to the latter makes us weak.
- Maintaining your resolve has bigger implications than you think. You are a testament to your own accomplishments and serve as an example for others. Keep going.
- You are not a failure. You just don’t understand that the forces working against your desired change are bigger than the weapons we normally use to change in the first place. Understand how to overcome these and you will soar through change
- Make sure you understand your brain, what temptation is, what cravings are and how to overcome them
- Establish keystone habits that will shrink the temptation to revert back to your natural behavior. They will be foundational to your success.
- Attach your reason for changing to your emotions and feelings. Make this “why” the source of your willpower.
- Learn to visualize what a victorious you look like. Mental imagery makes your success a sure thing when reality makes demands on you.
- Figure out where your dopamine triggers are and realign them as you need to.
- Realize what the pitfalls are to your success and avoid them. Don’t be overconfident, and reorient your focus from immediate reward to future reward.