It’s that time of the year again. You know, the one where you are wavering on your New Year’s resolutions. You might have already given up on them. Statistically, you would be in good company – a large percentage of resolution makers have already bailed ship on their resolutions.
Researchers at the University of Scranton reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology that nearly four out of 10 people give up on their resolutions before the month of February comes around. And, less than half will make it midway through the year.
What about you? Are you still going strong or are you wavering?
Making resolutions are important because you focus on improving areas of your life that matter most to you. Sometimes we need assistance to achieve those resolutions. Here are two actionable items that will help you achieve your goals: overcoming resistance and making/following a plan.
Resistance – Its What’s Stopping You
Life can be very distracting: work demands, personal demands, family and friends. Then our enemies named doubt, discouragement and fear start to creep in. It is a miracle that we ever manage to stay focused and accomplish anything.
Those demands and distractions are called resistance, that invisible, destructive force fighting against you anytime you try to make an improvement or change in any area of your life. Resistance is a term that has been popularized by author Steven Pressfield in his book, “The War of Art”.
Pressfield asserts that we encounter resistance any time we try doing something important. I’m sure you have felt it many times, whether trying to lose weight, reaching a financial goal, or improving your mental health. He calls it “the enemy from within” and “the most toxic force on the planet…the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease…”.
There are steps you can take to overcome resistance:
- When you feel fear, you might tend to procrastinate. The way to counter fear is to start.
- When you feel uncertainty, you might tend to distract yourself. The way to counter uncertainty is to focus.
- When you feel doubt, you might tend to quit, leaving work unfinished. The way to counter doubt is to finish.
Awareness of resistance in your life and the tactics it uses will help you to keep those resolutions going and transform your life.
“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet…the root of more unhappiness than poverty and disease.” – Steven Pressfield
SUCCESS – Plan for It
The second key factor in reaching your aspirations, your resolutions, your dreams is to plan, plan, plan, and then implement it. Making a resolution of losing weight or getting fit without planning for it is like setting sail in a boat with one sail, pointing it east and hoping you hit your destination one day soon.
Your first step in realizing your resolutions is to make a plan. For instance, if your goal is to get physically fit, then create a schedule to exercise listing specifically when you will exercise, the exact days and time, and the type of exercise you will do. Plan for incremental increases in the amount of exercise over the long term. Set an attainable (yet challenging) goal to reach, like running a 5K race 6 months from now on July 4th.
By planning when, how and to what extent over a given time period you are working towards your resolution, you are putting a system in place. The system allows you to stick with doing things even when you do not necessarily want to. Follow the system and results will follow.
Your second step in making those resolutions a reality is to actually see yourself at your goal. The subconscious mind is very, very powerful. It works extremely hard to make our thoughts about ourselves and the world around us true. See yourself at the finish line of that 5K race and your mind will work hard to make it happen.
It is not a matter of visualization – it is a matter of perception. Researchers have proved that perceiving success increases the levels of dopamine in the brain, which releases pleasurable feelings in the brain’s reward center. Conversely, perceiving failure decreases the levels of dopamine and increases the feeling of fear. They are finding that dopamine is more about motivation and just feeling of pleasure.
Scientists at Vanderbilt University have found that dopamine impacts your willingness to work. People with “go-getter” personalities have higher levels of dopamine in the brain’s reward center than those with “slacker” personalities, who have higher dopamine levels in the anterior insula of the brain (the emotional and risk perception area).
By maintaining a focus on the perception of success (the reward), your brain will release dopamine and motivate you to reach your goals. Behavioral neuroscientist John Salamone (UConn) found in an animal study on rats that those with higher dopamine levels were more willing to overcome obstacles in reaching larger piles of food than those rats which had lower levels of dopamine, who were happy with smaller amounts of food and were unwilling to put in the work to reach the larger piles.
Your third step in realizing your resolutions is to actually get off your seat and take action. You have put a system into place (the plan), you can see yourself at the finish line (your goal), now take a step outside and walk towards it (the system in action). Aiming for small, incremental successes in obtaining your goals will keep the dopamine flowing in your brain, making you feel rewarded and positive, motivating you forward.