The 3 Most Important Tactics for Keeping Your Resolutions
By Christine Carter, Ph.D.
You already know this: More than half of people who make New Year’s resolutions give up on them by June. Don’t join this failing 50% in 2015!
Instead, follow these three research-based strategies making resolutions that stick.
1. Make your resolution a habit, not a goal.
Your goals for 2015 might include losing ten pounds, or totally clearing your house of clutter, or finding a new job. All of these might be goals worth setting, and they all involve a lot of different behaviors and therefore, a lot of opportunities for failure.
Simple behaviors that can become habits that automatically help you achieve your goals make better resolutions than grandiose goals. For example, resolve to eat an apple every afternoon instead of a cookie, or spend ten minutes each weeknight before bed cleaning out a shelf or a drawer, or send one networking email every morning before you leave for work.
For something to become a habit, there needs to be something else that triggers the new behavior – a regular, uniform stimulus that tells you its time to perform this behavior. My morning meditation is triggered by my alarm going off at about the same time every day.
If you have a habit in mind that you don’t want to do every day, choose a trigger that occurs only occasionally – i.e. at the times when you want to perform that new behavior regularly down the line. For example, “Do a thirty minute yoga video twice a week” isn’t a habit. It’s a to-do item for your task list because there’s no clear trigger, and therefore no clear way to make it a routine for you. If you want to squeeze that twice-weekly yoga into your schedule, a better approach would be to say, “I’ll pop in my thirty minute yoga video after dropping the kids off at soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.”
2. Bake a reward into the actual behavior, rather than holding out until you’ve achieved some far-off goal.
We human beings may say that we are pursuing happiness, but really what we tend to pursue is reward. Anything that we might desire could count as a reward: a cashmere sweater, a pretty little cupcake, attention from a mentor, a sense of accomplishment, some affection from a loved one.
When our brains identify a potential reward, they release dopamine, a feel-good chemical messenger. That dopamine rush motivates us toward the reward, creating a real sense of craving, wanting, or desire for the carrot that is being dangled in front of us.
Fortunately, we can make dopamine work for us rather than against us as we build our habits. To get into a good habit, you’ll need a really satisfying reward, ideally one that’s immediate or, even better, intrinsic to a routine.
We can do this by making the activities themselves more rewarding, more fun. This is what I did when I switched my silent, sitting meditation (a very serious, long vipassana—like eating kale for the mind) to meditating along with a Deepak Chopra recording (short, inspiring, and easy—like an iceberg wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese). I was getting a lot out of the longer vipassana meditations when I did them, but I wasn’t meditating regularly. Just as any salad is better than a diet without greens, I decided that at this stage in the game, any meditation is better than none. It might not be a sure road to enlightenment, but it’s closer than hitting snooze in the morning.
I’m also a huge fan of the “Yay me!” reward, which I learned from B.J. Fogg at Stanford. Even something as small as a short mental victory dance can trigger a little hit of dopamine, enough to tell your brain to repeat whatever you just did. So when I hear my alarm and sit up in bed, I congratulate myself. If you heard my running internal commentary, you’d think I was utterly crazy, what with the constant “Yay me! I did it again!” self-talk. But it works!
3. Prepare for failure.
Unless you are some sort of superhero, you will not be able to get into this new habit perfectly the first time. You’ll trip and fall and royally screw up. Research indicates that eighty-eight percent of people have failed to keep a new resolution. In my experience as a human being and a coach, 100 percent of people starting a new habit lapse at some point. Faltering is a normal part of the process. It doesn’t matter if you have a lapse, or even a relapse, as much as it matters how you respond to that lapse.
So take a minute to think about what tools you need to embark on your new habit. What obstacles will you likely face? People who plan for how they’re going to react to different obstacles tend to be able to meet their goals more successfully. For example, research suggests that recovery from hip-replacement surgery depends in large part on having patients think through obstacles to their recovery and then make a specific plan for how they will deal with those obstacles.
What obstacles can you predict and plan for? Don’t forget to include the people in your life who (often unintentionally) throw up roadblocks. For example, my husband was not a fan of my morning exercise routine when he noticed how early I was going to bed, and I was successful only when I planned out how I’d respond to his attempts to convince me to stay up later with him.
In his fantastic book The Marshmallow Test, the celebrated psychologist Walter Mischel gives what I think is his best advice for responding to challenges: make an “implementation plan.” First, identify the “hot spots that trigger the impulsive reactions you want to control,” like your alarm going off while it is still dark, or seeing your favorite hot wings on the menu. Then, decide what you will do when the trigger goes off, phrasing your behavior plan in simple, “If-Then” terms. For example: “If my alarm goes off and I want to press snooze, I will immediately get out of bed and walk to the bathroom.” Or: “If I see hot wings on the menu and feel the urge to order them, I will immediately choose a salad to order instead.” This strategy may seem too simplistic to work, but lots of research proves it to be, as Mischel writes, “astonishingly effective.”
Finally, even with the best laid plans, lapses are still going to happen, probably over and over again. In those cases, what’s important is that you don’t beat yourself up for your lack of willpower but instead try to practice “self-compassion.” When we practice self-compassion, we recognize that everyone makes mistakes and falls short of their expectations for themselves at one time or another.
In fact, our shortcomings are what bind us to the rest of our fellow humans.
Pioneering research by Kristin Neff, of the University of Texas, has found that when people treat themselves with self-compassion–that is, they extend to themselves the same kind of understanding and kindness that they would show a friend who makes a mistake–they are actually more likely to bounce back from a failure and stay on track to meet their goals.
I believe, in my heart of hearts, that New Year’s resolutions are a fantastic opportunity to develop new behaviors that really can make us happier, healthier, and more successful in 2015.
4 Tips to Reach Your New Year Goals in 2015
By Brian Tracy
Do you want to make 2015 the best and most successful year of your life?
I want to explain what you can do to make it happen! These tips are very practical and easy to do, but they will be greatly beneficial to your success. Keep reading and I will show you how…
How to Reach Your Goals in 2015
One of your most valuable financial assets is your earning power. They call it your human capital or your intellectual property. What you have to do is constantly increase your earning ability.
Image climbing a ladder. When you start climbing in your career and most people have no earning ability, but after 10 or 20 years some are earning 20 to 50 times more than others! Even though they started out in the same spot.
What’s Their Secret?
The difference was that the top people based on years of research have continually learned new skills as they go through their careers. Like climbing a ladder. Every new skill increases your ability to get great results. It increases the value of your contribution. It increases your ability to earn more money.
If you want to earn more money in and accomplish your goals in 2015, create more value. It’s as simple as that.
How do you make 2015 a Great Year?
The only way you can create more value for yourself in 2015 is to learn and apply new skills that allow you to get better results. Results that people will pay you more and more to get.
1. How to Write Goals For 2015
Some people don’t know where to start and wonder how to write goals. Ask yourself this question…
“Where do I want to be in 12 months?”
Write down 10 goals that you want to accomplish in the next 12 months of 2015. Look at your goals that you have written down and think to yourself, “If I could wave a magic wand, which one goal would have the greatest impact on my life.” For most of us it’s a financial goal.
For some of us it might be a fitness goal, a relationship goal, or a business goal, but for most of us it is a financial goal. You can still use these tips on any goal.
2. Focus On One Skill At a Time
“What one skill will help me the most to achieve this goal?”
Think about all of the skills that you have and find out one skill. Focus on learning one skill that can help you achieve your most important goal.
This formula is the reason why people go from the bottom to the top of anything. The most successful people are very clear on where you want to go.
You must have a very clear goal. Then you must be very clear about the skills you must acquire that will get you there. When you acquire new skills, it helps you climb the ladder of success, every new step of the ladder you increases your earning potential.
When you increase your earning ability, you open up new opportunities for yourself. Keep adding new skills and keep growing to achieve your most important goal.
3. Manage Your Time
Today we are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time.
You must plan everyday in advance…
The simplest way to do this is to make a list of everything that you have to do in your coming day. If you are going to invest your time into anything, you want to do the thing that gives you the greatest return on energy, or your mental and physical energy.
Some people work all day and make a few dollars and some people work all day and make hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Which one do you want to be?
Make a list of everything that you have to do in the coming day and identify your most important task. Which one item will have the greatest value in your work? The greatest value in achieving your main goal? Work on this task first. Work on it until it is 100% complete.
4. How to Develop a Good Habit in 2015
Start each day by completing a task first thing in the morning. This is one of the great psychological tricks of success…
Start and complete one task, first thing in the morning.
If you’re going to complete a task in the morning, start and complete your most important task! Do that everyday before you do anything else. Repeat this over and over again for 3 weeks and you will develop a habit.
Focus on your most important goal in 2015 by developing skills to achieve it. Manage your time by completing the most important tasks first and develop a new habit of completing your most important task first.
If you do follow these 4 tips, I promise that you will have great success in 2015 and develop great habits for years to come.