Making Resolutions Stick

Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Before I quit for good back in early 2017, I had quite a few false starts.

The annual year-end tradition of deciding to make life changes the following year is in full swing.  Whether you buy into the idea of a New Year’s resolution or have been trying for some time to make positive changes, let’s dive into some success tips for you to get it done this year. If you have a big goal or two, like eliminating smoking or another bad habit, losing weight or improving health, adding new sources of income, or growing your network, this strategy will increase your odds of success.

The big-picture goal-setting exercise (FORBES) was tackled last week in the blog. Now, we need to look at the key changes we strive for and think through how we can make them work. Why is it that so often we try and tackle a big change and within days or weeks find ourselves back in old habits and old routines?

Well, part of the issue is we rely solely on willpower and our conscious brain to make the right calls along the way. Now, I won’t go so far as to say this is an impossibility, but we are creatures of habit and programming, so relying on willpower alone makes change far more difficult.

How To Reprogram Your Brain and Reach Your Goals

What we want to do is both reprogram the non-conscious and appeal to the conscious parts of our brain. Here is one strategy to kick the bad habits and make improvements where desired:

  • Write the goal down. Think it through first. Resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. Setting out on a resolution and not following through is breaking a commitment to yourself. If appropriate, share your written goal with someone you trust, like a spouse, friend, coach, or mentor who can help keep you accountable.
  • Write down why the goal is important.
  • Pray about the goal, meditate, or both.
  • Affirm who you need to be to reach the goal – every day for 5 minutes January through March (examples below).
  • Visualize what the goal will accomplish and feel the emotion – every day for 5 minutes January through March.
  • Schedule out key activities to move you toward this goal for January through March.
  • Plan for resilience – revisit the “Why” statement in step 2 and visualize the Slight Edge curve when times get tough.

If you have struggled to make positive changes in your life, I dare you to try this method. You may just hit your goals this year. Especially if it is an important goal around relationships, health, or finances.

Let’s Break It Down

Let’s take a financial goal and break it down into these steps. Perhaps you want to save an additional $50,000 in 2024 for a down payment and closing costs on a home.

  1. Write the goal.
    •  Ex. Save $50,000 by the end of 2024 for a down payment on a new home – writing down goals engages a mind-body connection that is a good first step and brings clarity and accountability to the goal.
  2. Write why the goal is important.
    • Ex: A home will allow me to create a space of my own and will provide a long-term financial investment – this brings meaning to the exercise and will serve as a reminder when you get too wrapped up in the day-to-day grind.
  3. Pray about the goal. This is personal and totally up to you.
  4. Affirm
    • Ex. “I make good financial decisions to save an additional $50,000 this year.” – affirmations, if you are simply repeating a mantra over and over without these other steps, can be largely ineffective.  Affirmations (self-talk) that are done properly can be a great way to reprogram your non-conscious brain.
  5. Visualize
    •  Ex. Close your eyes. Visualize yourself in your home. Feel the emotion of closing day.  Imagine the keys in your hands, planting the garden, and hosting a housewarming party.  Whatever is part of the dream of homeownership, picture these in your mind. If you are considering a family in your future, visualize that also. Do this for 5 minutes each day January through March – visualization combined with affirmations can really help us program our system that will then help us take appropriate action.
  6. Schedule
    • January 1st: New budget in force 
    • January 10th: Open “untouchable” bank account and fund initially with $5,000
    • January 20th:  Change the distribution of your paycheck or commission checks to allocate 10% into this new account.
    • Add ideas to increase sales, revenues, get a raise, etc depending on your vocation and how you are paid – adding relevant steps to your calendar now increases the chances you will take the right action. We start with three months for two reasons. First, it’s not as overwhelming as trying to schedule out an entire year.  Second, plans need flexibility, we may know the first few actions to take but we may need to alter the plan and step up the activity or adjust our technique.
  7. Resilience
    • Make sure your goal and your “why” statement are visible when the going gets rough. Also, I like to call to mind “The Slight Edge” curve by Jeff Olson. Let’s examine that for a moment.

If you haven’t read “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson, it’s a great one for habit development. In fact, reading this book along with your goals would be an excellent Step 8 to accomplish what you intend for 2024.  In the book, he shares a chart that I call to mind every time I consider doing (or not doing) something that will move me forward on one of my goals.

Next, I consider what the result would be farther down the curve should I decide not to take the appropriate action. This works for me and helps keep me on track. When I quit smoking, it was either a picture of health and longevity or sickness and early death. The concept in short is our daily disciplines or errors in judgment may not be felt in the short term, but over time our daily habits compound and will have a big impact on our success or failures in all areas of life.

Together with our planning exercise from the last blog, you now have a solid strategy that considers both the non-conscious and conscious parts of our brain. I believe you will accomplish what you set out for if you take some time and do it right. If it’s important enough, you will! Here’s wishing you an amazing year!

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