Rewire Your Brain To Keep Your Resolutions!
The problem with most new year's resolutions is that they don't work with the way our brains work.
The problem with most people's New Year's resolutions is that they don't reflect how our brains work. What can we do to “re-wire” our brains to make this New Year different from all the rest?
First, throw out the term “New Year's Resolutions!” Our brains are wired by the experience of previous years to associate “resolutions” with failure. We start out not believing we are really going to follow through!
This year, let's make “New Year's Promises!” This fires off our brain wiring that is associated with keeping promises, and feeling good about it. To keep those promises, we need to focus on four areas:
Manage our language: We want to make sure that the promise is about the behavior, and not the goal. “Work out 3 times a week” is fine, but “lose 20 pounds” is not. Promise what we can control. Also, frame all of our language in a positive manner, that allows our brain to create an image of what we want. To the brain, “I don't want to be fat,” and “I want to be fat,” both call up the same image – fat!
Get support: Promises and commitments are made to someone, often someone other than ourselves. This introduces an element of accountability that is absent in New Year's resolutions. Make your New Year's promise to someone, or preferably several “someones.” Be clear about your commitment, and ask them to hold you accountable. If you really want motivation, consider including in your “promisees” that annoying co-worker or relative who will be sure to rag you about it all year if you don't “keep your promise.”
Maximize the repetitions: Lots of people fail on their New Year's resolutions primarily because they just don't do it long enough to make it a habit. They also don't stop doing their other habits which interfere with their new habit. Focus on the next 21 days, making sure that you take at least one action each day that specifically supports your promise. As you take the action, focus on the fact that you are doing this action because you are committed to keeping your promise.
Involve visualization: Vivid visualization actually fires off many of the same neurons as the activity itself. This is a great way to increase your repetitions. On your non-workout days, you can visualize successfully navigating the most difficult part of the process for most people – getting out of the house and heading for the gym! (For a different promise, like stopping smoking, the difficult part might be a particular time of day.)
Here is a daily framework that incorporates all the elements. Every day:
Write your promise again, while visualizing what you will feel like when you have kept it.
Write down one action you will take that day to move you toward the promise.
Have someone hold you accountable to the daily commitment, someone to whom you will report every day on whether or not you completed that one action.
Follow these steps to use your brain for a “Happy New You!”