Friday 1 January 2021

About Those New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year to all my friends, clients, colleagues, and indeed any other readers!

It being January, I thought it might be good to share some reflections on turning New Year Resolutions into reality. As is my wont, I will throw out a few ideas: keep the ones that you deem valuable and discard the rest. So here are eight things to try.

1: Check that you really mean it. I call this the Viktor Frankl question: how does this resolution sit with your fundamental understanding of the meaning of your life?  If it doesn't, then why is it a resolution? If it does, that immediately gives it more importance; and reminding yourself of this may give it more traction. (Memo to self: blog about Viktor Frankl: I have mentioned him in passing a few times, but he is worthy of a proper post).

2: Write a Context Goal. A Context Goal is written like this. First, you write what it is you want to accomplish (and express this in positive, not negative language - eg to be free of nicotine addiction, rather than to stop smoking). Then write down all the reasons that this is a good idea. Be as creative as you can here: you are looking to generate a long list. So as well as the health benefits (for example) of being free of nicotine addiction, you might list the social benefits, the good example you wish to set to younger people, the fact that you want to prove to yourself that you can conquer this addiction, the monetary savings, and so on and so on.  The idea is to make the goal so self-evidently worthwhile that even in your most recalcitrant state, you can only see it as a good and worthwhile thing to do.

3: Consider occasions on which you have successfully achieved something similar. We are often prone to assume that we can't change (particularly if we have failed at this particular resolution in the past). Therefore it is important to recall that we can in fact change, and that we have plenty of evidence to support that belief. Re-writing our story about this may be an important support for such desired change (my book Shifting Stories refers...)

4: Consider what structures you can put in place to support the resolution. I have posted before on questions about will power (here for example) and the importance of environmental cues in stimulating our behaviour. So a simple thing to do might be to put your list of context goals by your alarm clock or phone, so that it is the first thing you see every day. You will have to devise other environmental cues for yourself...

5: Recruit an 'external conscience.' Most of us find it much easier to honour the commitments we make to others than those we make only to ourselves. So if your resolution is to run or go to the gym, you will be far more likely to do so if you agree to meet someone to run or train with you. If it is to free yourself of an addiction, consider who would be good to hold you to account on a regular basis, and recruit them to the project, explaining precisely what you need of them.

6: Consider the use of an affirmation to strengthen your resolve and your belief in you ability to deliver it.

7: Keep a learning diary: every day record your progress (or lack thereof) and consider what you need to do next to stay on course or get back on the tracks (as appropriate).

8: Celebrate progress and success. Set yourself milestones and rewards, to keep you motivated, ensure you recognise progress, and reward yourself (and others, where possible!)

With thanks to Nagatoshi Shimamura, Marcos Paulo Prado, and  Xan Griffin for sharing their work on Unsplash

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