Train Your Brain to Keep Resolutions

Why do so many of us have trouble keeping our New Year's Resolutions? Certified Emotional Intelligence Consultant, Susan Zabriskie says that typically, we set New Year’s resolutions from the perspective of what’s wrong with us.  We look at our deficiencies. She had some steps you can take to train your brain to keep those resolutions for good!

Step One:
Examples of what we say to ourselves:
- “I’m so _______________.”  (fat, disorganized, messy)
- “I’m not a good __________________.”  (mother, student, reader)

We focus on weaknesses, fear, being "realistic," or dwell on what happened in the past and what went wrong.
These are negatively conceived goals.  When we start from this premise we literally activate a neural pathway in our brain that sets us up for a lot of difficulty in reaching our goals: 

Sympathetic nervous system:
“Fight or Flight” system – activates our stress response and ultimately releases a series of chemicals – principal one: cortisol (stress hormone)
- blood pressure increases
- heart rate goes up
- muscles tighten
- immune system is affected
- Non-essential systems (growth, reproduction, digestion, etc.) are shut down to conserve energy  
- We don’t think or perform at our best
- We can feel anxious, pessimistic, depressed
- Quite literally we shut ourselves down to growth when we focus on fixing what’s wrong. 
- Set ourselves up for a continual struggle to achieve our goal(s). 

The good news is that we can take the opposite approach and stimulate a neural pathway that will work for us rather than against us.  This approach focuses on envisioning our strengths first, then contemplating our ideal self, our aspirations and dreams. What we really want to be, to learn, to realize.   Thinking in these terms arouses the:

Parasympathetic nervous system:
“Rest and repose” or “rest and digest” system – activates the “relaxation response” which is the opposite of stress response
- breathing slows
- blood pressure drops
- immune system increases
- blood flow increases
- feel calm, amused, optimistic, and hopeful.
- Release chemicals – oxytocin – the “bonding” hormone – related to feelings of calmness, reduces anxiety, increases sociability and plays a role in reducing the stress response
- We essentially, are opening ourselves to possibilities.

Key is to spend time imagining our self as our ideal, with our goals already achieved.
Examples: 
- If it’s a health goal, see yourself as vibrant, slim and healthy, enjoying activities and relationships, being empowered to eat healthily. 
- Envision your home as beautifully organized and clean, focusing on the sense of peace, order and contentment you will enjoy.

Important point: This is true for personal goal setting as well as employee development plans that focus on “fixing” deficiencies.   Employees will be much more motivated and engaged if working towards ideals, rather than fixing weaknesses.

Step Two:

- Think in terms of launching a learning agenda for yourself rather than an “improvement plan” and set goals around what it is you want or need to learn in order to achieve your ideal. 
- Can be helpful to choose a learning theme for the year – a “quest”


Step Three:

Create a step-by-step plan, breaking goals down into doable increments
Choose one area and set a goal that is:
- realistic and specific
- focused on positive behaviors (what you want, not what you don’t want)
- is written in action terms (describe what it would look like of achieved)

IMPORTANT:  Don’t call it a resolution or a goal.  Think of it as “intentional change”.

Remember to stay focused on the positive and ideal – your brain will kick into a gear that is empowering and make it that much easier to achieve success!

 To find out more about what Susan has to say click here.


 

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