‘Tis the season to make resolutions. Depressing statistics thrown around this time of year inform us that very few possess a level of self-control to make New Year’s resolutions last more than a few weeks.
That doesn’t mean resolutions are pointless, it just means you need the right tools. Here are five ways to build self-discipline in order to keep your resolutions this year.
1. Enlist your right brain when goal setting.
So often, we make resolutions with our logical, rational, left brains driving the bus. We think things like, “I will be healthier if I lose weight. Let’s eat some broccoli.” But we then wage a war within ourselves: our right-brain, more animalist side, thinks, “To heck with weight loss! Check out those cookies!”
The key is to allow your right brain—your intuitive, emotional, creative, impulsive side—to make the resolution and decide what you want to accomplish, and why. “I will look super-hot if I lose weight! Hooray for broccoli!” When your right-brain leads the charge, you are less susceptible to self-sabotage.
Your right brain is more visual and can rely on tools like inspiring images and mental visualization to stay motivated towards your goals, which can make you less likely to stray.
But how do you access your right brain? One technique is to get into a wordless state in order to shut off your verbal, left brain so that you can “see” your right brain’s thoughts. To do so might require a little bit of practice, but the more you try, the easier it gets.
Sit in a quiet space and close your eyes. I like to envision a bright, white light shooting out of my heart and head and permeating the world. Concentrating on any peculiar mental visual will help to shut off the flow of worded-thoughts.
Once you’re focused on an image and words are no longer floating through your consciousness, use your right-brained imagination to seek out what you want for yourself. Hold that new, inspiring vision in your mind, and return to it often.
2. Use your left brain for strategic planning.
In order to achieve the goals you set for yourself, you must enlist your whole brain, which includes the aforementioned logical side. While the left brain isn’t 100% helpful when it comes to creating goals soaked in inspiration and motivation, where it really shines is in both the planning and progress tracking stages.
The left brain is most motivating when you enlist planning tools like calendaring, task lists, routines, and schedules, which are the traditional tools we think of when goal setting. Of course, these tools aren’t to be underestimated in their effectiveness.
Tracking your progress via charts and graphs integrates both left and right brain motivation in that it’s both analytical and visual. Use a whole-brained approach to stay wholly dedicated to achieving resolutions.
3. Shake hands with reality.
We all have unhelpful habits that we unintentionally go to great lengths to protect, simply because the status quo is easier and thus comforting. Humans are experts at fooling themselves, and we all tell ourselves lies in order to avoid the discomfort required by change.
Go on a truth-hunting mission to see where you are making excuses for yourself. How do you sabotage yourself? What excuses do you make? Write down your unhelpful thoughts and impulses and counter them with more helpful truths.
For example, if every year—despite your resolution to eat healthier—you attack the leftover Christmas cookies like you’ll disappoint somebody somewhere if you don’t eat them, examine those thoughts. Will you feel guiltier if you do eat them, or if you don’t eat them, thus letting the cookies go to “waste.” As I heard from Geneen Roth, extra food can either go to “waste” or to “waist”—but either way the food is wasted. The choice is whether extra food will go into the trashcan or onto your body.
Get a full and truthful picture of where your motivations lie and what excuses you use to sabotage yourself:
- Do you set unachievable goals and then beat yourself up when you can’t stick to a too-rigorous program?
- Or do you undershoot, and then find yourself underwhelmed by lackluster results?
- Do you get bored easily and behave badly in an effort to keep things interesting?
- Do you quit when you make a mistake, rather than troubleshooting and moving forward?
The point is to be realistic. If you aren’t able to stick to your resolutions, go on a fact-finding mission to find out what’s not working and what attitudes and systems are holding you back.
4. Aim for consistency.
Consistency is everything. What you do on most days is more important that what you do once in a while. Make sure you commit to a resolution that you can reliably achieve on a regular basis.
It might be attractive to resolve to do something at a particular level of perfection, but if you cannot consistently achieve that goal for an extended period of time, you need to reevaluate and choose a goal that you can achieve on a consistent basis.
Make sure your goal falls into a sweet spot. It needs to be big enough to make a difference, but small enough to stick to consistently. If you have a big goal that you can’t meet right off the bat, consider the option of a series of stepped goals that you can achieve in increments over time.
5. Use accountability to your advantage.
I could seriously go by the pseudonym “The Lone Ranger.” I tend to operate under the (totally false) assumption that I can go through life in a bubble. The older I get, the more I realize in a very real sense that I absolutely need people; in fact, I love to need people. When we resolve to accomplish something, an extremely helpful tactic is to rely on others to help us reach our goals.
I’ve used blogging as my accountability system by announcing that I’m going to achieve certain goals, like when I went alcohol-free for one year. Knowing that some people are following what I say here motivates me to hold myself more accountable to my words than if I were operating within my bubble.
Aside from just announcing to others what you intend to accomplish, you could also enlist an accountability buddy—someone who may have the same goals you do, so you can compare notes and encourage each other.
A friend of mine started a Facebook group for four friends focused on getting healthier this year. The group is small and intimate, all women I trust and admire. The enthusiasm for stepping up our game is contagious, and it’s fun sharing the journey with others whose motivation makes mine grow.
Choose someone you know who “gets” you and will support any effort you make to improve. You could also pick a program, whether it’s online or offline, that will give you social interaction and a means to be held responsible for your results, and help troubleshoot your mistakes.
My sincere hope is that this year, some or all of these five tips will help you in being successful at sticking to your resolutions. And remember, each failure is an opportunity to grow and learn what can be done differently next time to get you closer to success!
Here’s to a fabulous 2017!