It’s January 8th, the day by which 25% of New Year’s resolutions have already been discarded. By the end of the year, 90% of our best intentions will have met the same fate. As we begin 2018, full of exciting ideas, are we doomed to have our plans fail? Does this mean we shouldn’t try to do better? To improve our lives? To learn, grow, or change?
Absolutely not! There are simple, yet powerful things we can do so our plans succeed!
I’ve written about using “structural architecture” to enhance our ability to bring about change in our lives. We can also garner support from Patterson’s insightful book, Change Anything, which offers six spheres of influence to help us do things differently:
Personal motivation: WHY do you want to make this change? How will your life be different once you achieve this? Each time you have an impulse to give up on your plan, reconnect with your motivation. Place visual cues of your goal in locations where you will see them.
Personal ability: new habits require new skills. To become more organized, a class on using your new computer program or app might be useful. To save for a vacation, a discussion with your investment counselor can identify appropriate savings vehicles.
Social motivation: as Patterson says, “bad habits are almost always a social disease.” Get your friends, colleagues, and family on your side. Tell them what you intend to do and why, and ask for their support and encouragement.
Social ability: changing a habit is easier when we get help – a trainer, coach, or mentor can be invaluable. Want to improve your speaking skills? Get a speaking coach!
Structural motivation: create short-term goals, with tangible rewards as you achieve them and penalties if you don’t. Treat yourself to a movie once you’ve read the journals on your desk, or donate $100 to a charity supporting a cause you abhor if you don’t.
Structural ability: adjust your environment to make it easier for you to succeed. Want to exercise regularly? Join a gym on your way home from work or put exercise equipment in front of the TV.
But there are reasons we live the way we do. To choose something different requires that we control our impulses to do the same things we’ve been doing. But what if we simply don’t have enough self-control? David Desteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, advises that self-control gets a bad rap because it’s often linked to deprivation and discomfort. Instead, he has shown that we can access our self-control with feelings of “gratitude, compassion and an authentic sense of pride.” As you approach your new activities, take a moment to recall an event that made you feel grateful. If your new activity involves helping others, feel your compassion for them before you leave your house. Acknowledge your skills and what you’ve already accomplished. Doing so will help you feel more inspired, capable, and ready to commit the time and effort needed to accomplish this new goal.
With these simple practices, we can make 2018 a year of growth and success.
What do YOU want to change or accomplish this year?