Question – The same big question I ask myself every year- why we don’t manage to keep our resolutions. I want to change some things this year, not repeat them over and over again. Every year I make these same resolutions but to no avail. Are we really truly in control of ourselves?
Answer – Millions of people feel and live that same experience every year. We want change and we are sincere about it! Right?
If we take a look at how our brains work, we may better understand how our brain sabotages our goals. Does it sound a little unreal that we do sabotage our own goals? We do but only partly because of our subconscious habits and partly because we feel inadequate or incapable.
There are several reasons why we fail year after year at reaching our goals. The largest barrier to our success is our choice of goal. Goals should not include what we like to do, or what we feel can already do. So immediately we are trying to accomplish something we may not like doing. We just want the end result. Sorry, I cannot tell you how to get the end result without the work in-between. I can tell you how to enjoy working on that goal to the point that you are starting to like it. Let’s first start with an understanding of how our brain can cause defeat: mindfulness, dueling goals, affective forecasting, and procrastination.
Mindfulness- is a state where we are paying attention to what is going on in our life at the present moment. When you’re mindful, you pay attention to your feelings and thoughts as if they are just facts not interpreting them as good or bad. Living in the moment and being self-aware rather than dwelling on the past or the future.
How do we get to that point?
- Focus on the situation that is here and now. (When your mind wanders bring it back to the present)
- Take a deep breath and visualize your body relaxing.
- Just listen to others without concentrating on a rebuttal.
- Accept that all people are different, and that all things change.
- Let go of what you can’t change.
We live our lives by our automatic subconscious thoughts. Those thoughts are faster yet not as strong as when we stay mindful. We can make changes in those automatic thoughts and have them help us enjoy the moment and work towards our goal by bringing out thoughts back to the present. This is a continual process yet well worth the work. When our minds wander to the past pain or fear of the future we loose power over them. Keep bringing thoughts back to the present.
Dueling Goals – This one principle that impacts all of us- when we have two amazing goals we want to achieve, but they may be working against each other. An example could be, you want to lose weight and you want to get more done at work. They are both very noble goals and why would they not work? So, you are in the middle of a project at work and if you take the time to go eat lunch you may not finish on time. To speed things up you run through a fast food drive up, which is contrary to losing weight. Now ask yourself, how do I prepare for the losing weight so that it also allows me to finish my projects in a timely manner? The answer would be to prepare ahead of time. Maybe have simple lunches made ahead of time or nutritious snacks readily available so that you don’t have to choose unhealthy food to save time. You would need to decide for yourself how you want to prepare for your goals, so they don’t duel, or conflict with each other. Just be aware when they work against each other and that will help you accomplish both amazing goals.
Comparing our converging our dueling goals to a beautiful rainbow can make this idea stick in your mind. In a rainbow you have water and light. They seem to be different yet by converging light and water you have something amazing as a result – a rainbow. This same principle applies to our dueling goals. Finding a way to have them work together will bring success.
Affecting and Forecasting – is the belief we will feel the same as we do now about our goals when working on them throughout the year. So, when we make our resolution, we are very positive that the end results are exactly what we want. And we are positive we will be excited about it when we start to work on it. What often happens is when it’s time to work on our goal we would rather watch a TV show or anything else except work on our goal. The action of working on goals itself doesn’t make us feel as good as we thought it would. So, we put it off. Put goals in easier step by step achievements so that a little distraction does not sideline us.
Procrastination. “Humans are predictably irrational,” Procrastination is one of the reasons resolutions fail.
We keep ourselves stuck in procrastination. The more we practice these habits, including procrastination the stronger they become. Use mindfulness (staying present) and start practicing small portions of your goal. The first few steps are always the hardest but it gets easier each time we step away from procrastination.
Napoleon Hill tells us that procrastination is at the head of the list for failure in all of our lives. When we are faced with choosing to work on something or procrastinate is our battlefield. We need to decide on work fast and then stick to it. Not changing our mind when things don’t work out the first time. Procrastination is the opposite of decision and a common enemy to most of us. Reach a decision quickly and change it slowly. The hardest part of any project or work is getting started. Just get started. Make 3 focus times a day anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 or 2 hours. Then take a break.
Whatever you choose for your goal spend at least 15 minutes a day studying how to accomplish that goal. If it is to improve your relationships, then spend that 15 minutes a day studying ways to improve your relationships. If it is to improve your health, then spend that 15 minutes learning more about how to improve your health. 15 minutes in reality is not very long. It is so easy to do and so easy to just skip over it. You can and will achieve your goals in 15 minutes a day. The practice of 15 minutes a day will also increase our confidence and greatly impact our thoughts that we are not capable of accomplishing our goals. We can do anything for 15 minutes. Just do it.
One day at a time and one step at a time.