Most of us, in some way, participate in the yearly ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions. Yet, with time, most of us become disillusioned because these resolutions rarely make it to reality. Why? Because change is difficult and we don’t know how to use our brain to get real change. We simply weren’t given the tools that allow change to happen.
Here’s my question as we begin this New Year: Is there some part of your life you want to change? If so, then stop everything else and read this article, then read it again and then do everything here. Positive change can happen and it can happen starting today, if you understand how to use your brain. Let’s get started.
1. Wish, want, dream, desire or RESOLVE.
Listen to your internal voice, and to the conversation most of us are having about our lives. We wish, want, dream and desire.
There is no problem there if you want to keep wishing, wanting and dreaming. Rarely will these change reality, as there is no serious, action-oriented intent.
It’s tough to change and this article could be waste of time if we skip over the issue of your resolve. Resolve is the shift, the decision made in advance of action, which assures that action will occur.
Resolving to lose weight is a joke. Resolving to walk two miles a day is a decision, especially once I have found my walking partner who will be knocking on my door every morning.
So you see, by testing resolve, you will know if you are serious. If you actually take action right away, your resolve is likely serious. If you say to yourself, “I have to remember that so I can think about it tomorrow,” then nothing is really going to happen. There is no resolve and no real change will likely happen.
On a personal level, a REAL decision to change will translate into immediate action. This is critical to knowing you are resolved. Never forget this, and you will not deceive yourself.
2. Willpower is unreliable. Trust leverage to keep you going.
Most of us take on a resolution and hope that a decision made in a moment of strength will prevail during a moment of weakness. It doesn’t work that way.
We need a decision that will compel us to honor our intentions, even in a moment of weakness. Low energy, a tough day or a crisis will always make us weak in the face of keeping our commitments or not. Willpower is weak in these moments and it will fail us, quite predictably.
This is where we turn to leverage. If you are serious about an intention, consider this: Write out six checks to someone or some organization that you really despise or find a menace to your values. Give them to a trusted friend or someone who will not let you down. This person’s job is to mail these checks to your nemesis anytime you do not honor your new resolution.
Here’s another approach: If your resolution is to walk three miles a day, then your friend is to check in with you daily. If you fail to walk, agree to have her post your failure on Facebook and tweet the world about it. Of course, you also want her support when you are succeeding. The key here is that you institute something that represents a “cost” to you when you fail to show up. The research suggests that this is remarkably helpful in keeping us on track.
3. Set up life so that it is almost impossible to fail.
We do this by thinking ahead. For example, if you are resolved to a new diet, get rid of the old junk food that tempts you. Throw it out or give it away. Instead, fill your pantry and frig ONLY with the food that supports your goal. Have your husband, wife or partner agree in advance to refuse the dessert menu when dining out. You also can plan out a weekly menu and prepare meals in advance (when possible) to ensure no last-minute decisions, as these wreck a healthy diet.
If resolved to better spending habits, make it impossible to buy something not already on your list. Do this by refusing to take more money than you need or set up a debit card where you transfer only an allocated budget each week that you have to jump over hurdles to violate your goal. Put the other credit cards in a small safe, bundled up only for emergencies.
If resolved to a better organized home, find an expert or friend (who might be tilted in the obsessive direction) and hire them to show up next week. Give them permission to help you throw out the stuff you don’t need or use.
Notice the central theme here: Give power to the environment around you, so that your resolve (made in moments of strength) has predetermined your choice in a moment of weakness. You set up the environment to support you, so that you don’t have to keep deciding to do the right thing. The environment holds the decision you made in a moment of strength to support you in moments of weakness.
If you do this immediately, your resolutions will become your reality. And you can watch the magic happen in this bountiful, joyous and happy New Year!
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.