Advice Regarding New Year’s Resolutions

The past three years I have written entries on why New Year’s resolutions fail and how to get better results. I highly suggest that you take a look at all of them before reading this article (or after if that is more practicable for you). They can be found here, here and here. These articles all suggest a helpful structure you can use for achieving any type of goal you may have.

A majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first three months of the year. Research also shows that many of these resolutions are repeated by the same people year after year for about one decade, without ever achieving the desired result. Chances are, after reading those two previous sentences you are not exactly feeling encouraged and motivated to try one now. Despite those statistics, there is room for plenty of optimism that you can be successful. The caveat is that you will have to go about succeeding in several new, and some uncomfortable, ways.

One common reason people fail in reaching their goal(s) is the flawed thinking that you have to make big adjustments to your current routine to achieve the results you desire. In many cases just the opposite is true. Another fatal flaw in resolutions is that you set a time-line that is unrealistic, which virtually assures your failure before you even start. Just imagine how few parents would succeed if their goal were to have their newborn walking and talking by the time they are four months old? Now, if their goal had been to have their newborn walking and talking by the time they are two years old, chances are almost all of them would have been successful. In fact, in most cases the newborns with an appropriate goal like two years would have walked and talked sooner than the ones with an inappropriate goal like four months.
Starting a goal of changed behavior is generally the hardest step in the process. The more easily achievable the steps are at the start, the more confidence you will gain in your abilities, and the more you will eventually begin to want to take on.

The way our mind works (if we allow it to control us as most people do) is that it perceives any change as a threat. The bigger the change you are trying to make, the bigger effort that your brain will naturally expend to defeat you. When you try to make a drastic change, you send an alert to a part of your brain called the amygdala that you are under attack. The amygdala is where the fight or flight response lives and is one of the most primitive mechanisms in our brain. Its sole purpose is to protect our body from harm, so it only has two modes of operation: React and Overreact.

The last thing you need when you are undergoing change is more obstacles, and if you activate your amygdala you are likely fighting a losing battle. Let me give you a simple practical example. Let’s say your goal is to lose “X” number of pounds this year. Now let’s say you decide you want to do it as fast as you can. You decide that you are going to exercise more (which will likely increase your hunger) and cut out all but one meal a day to achieve your goal. This is clearly a large threat (to your amygdale) and will be seen as an attempt to starve your body to death.
Now let’s say you want to lose the same amount of weight as in the previous example and you will be thrilled if you reach success at the end of the year.

If I were working with you we would start with about as small of steps as you could imagine. Let’s say you already eat a lot of salad and I suggest you eat less salad with your meals. Most people when given this advice either order fewer salads or decide to leave a few bites on their plate whenever they eat salad. Both are much more difficult ways of following my advice than necessary. It’s difficult for most people to avoid or leave food on their plates. So my advice initially would be to take a bite of salad with your fork and either give it to whom you are dining with or throw it away before you eat anything.

This serves several purposes including keeping your amygdala asleep. If you learn to keep your amygdala asleep your brain will be tricked into using the cerebral cortex, which loves challenges. So in essence if you try and make a big change your brain will automatically fight you because your amygdale is activated and is where fear lives inside of us. Conversely, if you keep it in the dark, you will be using your cerebral cortex, which will act like a friend helping you accomplish whatever challenges you put in front of it.

Our brains control us way more than we realize and unless you actively learn how to use your brain for your purposes, it will win every battle while making you think you are in control, and that all the decisions you are making are yours; they aren’t! Our brain always invents reasons after the fact, that makes sense to us and we ignorantly buy into them without question. We put enormous value on how we feel, but how we feel is simply the outcome of how we process the thoughts in our head. Feelings and thoughts are not facts!

If you want to reach your goals this year, start adopting habits that put your brain in neutral and allow you to run the show for a change. It will be uncomfortable at first, but eventually you will look back and wonder how you ever lived the way you did before.

Now make it a happy New Year!


You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc




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