- New Years Resolutions (or how to change a bad habit and start a positive pattern)

I did an interview on CFAX Cafe Victoria with Bruce Williams today on New Years Resolutions.  It made me realize that my efforts to keep this blog going have not been so successful.  New beginnings, like the start of a year, a month or a week, often give us the impetus to break an old habit or start a new pattern that is desirable for our lives.  I’m taking this opportunity, then, to write a bit about how best to make a resolution that you can stick to (and in the meantime I am hoping to take some of my own advice).

The most important thing to consider in making a resolution is setting a goal that is small and manageable.  When I started this blog my goal was to post once a month.  Clearly, given the changes in my life, my goal, although seeming to be manageable at the time, was too much for me to handle.  If you don’t reach your goal it may be that your goal was too big.  So, my new goal is to make a post every three months.

Just like that, I have now achieved a small goal and I can feel good about myself instead of beating myself up for not having met my original goal.  And this is an important point with resolutions.  It’s important not to beat yourself up for slippage.  If you beat yourself up you’re unlikely to try again.  But if you celebrate the small victories along the way, it can give you encouragement to continue forward.

Another thing to keep in mind is to have clear and specific goals.  If you make a commitment, for example, to “go to the gym this year” it is not specific enough to really help you focus. But if your commitment is to go to the gym with Sarah on Tuesdays after work, it may help you have a clearer idea of when you are on track and when you are off track.

This brings us to the next helpful tool, which is to have someone to whom you are accountable. Try to work towards your goal either with someone else or have someone to whom you have to report re how much you have achieved this week.  It is easy for us to block out of our mind what we don’t want to look at.  If we know we have to report to someone else, it forces us to be more aware of our patterns and tendencies. The more awareness we have, the more opportunity we have to change direction when we start to slip.

There are times when we are aware we are slipping, but we just don’t feel like doing what we set out to do.  For those times, it is important to have a contingency plan.  A contingency plan allows us to step back, take a break, regain focus and move forward.  An example of a contingency plan for me would be a fallback plan when my original plan to write a blog post does not work out.  So, let’s say I put aside a specific morning to write an article, but I just can’t think of something relevant to write.  My contingency plan would be to have a coffee, go for an hour long hike and promise myself to think about the article while on the hike and at least write down a few ideas when I returned.  Even writing down a few ideas would be a small victory.

Finally, it is important to visualize positive change.  Recent research on neuroplasticity has shown that to change our patterns we need to create new neural pathways in our brain. We can do that by changing our thoughts.  If you want to work on following through on a resolution, create images in your mind of how you will be when you have reached your goal.  Or imagine yourself carrying out your resolution.  Projecting this future self will start to change your brain before you even do anything, clearing the path for a new pattern that you can then follow up with action.

Well, I’m already imagining myself having a coffee and writing my next blog article.  We’ll see how things look three months from now.

 

January 8th, 2014 | Uncategorized | - - -
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