December 29

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Resolutions? 15 No-Fail Tools to go from Doubtful to Unstoppable in the New Year

By Rachel Haverkos

December 29, 2017


New Years.

Yes, I have to ask.

Are you making resolutions? Or…. not?

I’m still deciding myself.

It’s a dilemma.

Why?

Resolutions don’t work.

Or, most of us don’t know how to work them.

As a result, we end up failing. And feeling like failures. And not wanting to try again.

But, what if there is nothing wrong with us -  we are not failures?

What if we’ve never been trained in how to set resolutions, and how to be successful? So, all we need is a bit of coaching, and we’re good to go – wouldn’t that be great?

I invite you. Read through the article. How many of these strategies have you already tried? None or just a few? That’s great news. Imagine how much you can achieve when you apply them all.

They blend in well together. Each tip is like an ingredient in your favorite cake – important to the final delectable outcome. Ready to check your recipe and get cooking?

This Is Easy..... Or Maybe Not?

First of all, you need to know what you most want to achieve – the big picture outcome you most want.

Next, you need to be able to break this down into chunks that are manageable.

And to think realistically about which piece of the puzzle you feel most ready to tackle.

Then, state your goal clearly enough that you can visualize taking action on it.

Sounds easy enough, right? We can do this.

But without knowing exactly how to do the above, we can come up short. Our recipe isn't detailed enough, or we leave out key ingredients. Hm.....

Your Recipe For Success

Meet Sally

Let’s walk through the important keys using Sally as an example. She’s about to turn 45 on January 9th. She hasn’t been sleeping well, and has gained an extra 14 lbs over the years. (Bummer. Her pre-diabetes status is a bummer too, she says.) And, she knows that exercising in the morning is one of the best things she can do to sleep better at night – and maybe lose some weight.

Getting fit and healthy tends to be one of the top resolutions each year, according to Google. Perhaps you can relate to her goal.

Sally’s overall goal is to sleep better at night (sleep for 7 hours continuously, after falling asleep in 15 minutes or less without any drugs) and to lose 1.5 – 3 lbs a month this year.

In order for Sally to achieve her big picture goals, she needs to refine them, as follows.

The Key Ingredients

1. Use Process Goals, Rather Than Outcome Goals. It’s important to know your overall desired goal: agreed. This is called your “outcome” goal. But to help you achieve this goal, it is critical to identify the steps you will take to get there, and to use these to guide your daily efforts. This is your “Process” goal, also known as a goal activity. The outcome you want is to be fit and sleep well at night; your process goal is to exercise daily in the morning.

Why? You have direct control over your efforts. Unfortunately, you don’t always have control over the outcome. It’s easier to persevere and not get discouraged when you focus on what you do have control over, rather than what you don’t.

2. Duration: I understand that you want to continue this goal throughout the year. But for now, (this may sound rude….) forget it. That’s too much. Just focus on making it through the first 30 days. You can re-evaluate and recommit to your goal after that.

Why? Studies show that if can make it through the first 30 days, you dramatically increase your chances of success.

3. Readiness: Be honest about what you are ready to do –that all parts of you feel in alignment with. There are stages of change that we all pass through, described beautifully in Dr. Prochaska et al’s book, Changing for Good. For now, just pick something you sincerely want to do and feel ready to do. Otherwise, you’re hurting not helping yourself.

Why? Each stage of change has action steps that are appropriate to take. If you try to skip steps, you can sabotage your success. For example, if you aren’t convinced that exercising in the morning is good for you, you could instead spend a few minutes (in standing, ideally) each morning for a week researching the benefits, and your different exercise options, before expecting yourself to go out and walk. Then you could begin your walking goal.

4. Use Momentum, not Motivation to succeed. Think small. Size does matter, and it’s important to choose a very tiny attainable goal. One that you can NOT fail at. I love the story Stephen Guise tells in his book “Mini Habits.” He wanted to develop his upper body, so he choose the goal of doing one push up per day. Yup, just one.

Why? Momentum. He could always do more if he felt like it, and usually he did. But even on his “I can’t do this” days, he still did one. It was so small, how could he not? With Sally, her goal could be to walk once down the block & back when it is nice outside, or to walk up and down her stairs  3 times when it’s too cold to go out, since this feels attainable to her – even on a “bad day.”

5. Go for “The One” - Delete Competing Goals. In Sally’s case, she’s in luck, because exercising in the morning both helps you sleep better, and helps you lose weight. Ideally you too can find a Process goal that helps you achieve several of your Outcome goals. For now, if you have two separate goals, just focus on one, until you build momentum.  You can always add a second tiny process goal on February 1st, after building momentum with your first goal.

Why? It takes one-pointed focus to build momentum.

6. Visualize and Make it Specific: Exactly where will you do your activity? Precisely when? Exactly how, and with whom? For example, Sally will sit on her kitchen chair and put on her walking shoes as soon as she’s done washing the blender after her morning drink. She’ll then go outside to walk down or around the block if it’s a nice day, or will go up and down the stairs in her house at least three times (her minimum goal) on an inclement day. Martha will join her on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30.

Why ? Psychologists have found that setting this “Implementation Intention” helps boost your chance of success dramatically.  Can you feel the difference this makes?

What cue or trigger will you use to signal that it’s time to do your goal activity? For Sally, she’ll use washing the blender as her cue. Think of an action you already do every day, such as brushing your teeth, or eating a meal. Or, pick a specific time, and schedule it. You choose, but be very explicit. Include this trigger as part of your plan.

7. Write it Down. Psychologists have also found that writing down our goals has a powerful influence on whether or not we achieve them.

8. Create Visual and/or Auditory Reminders for yourself – you’ll need these as you get started. Sally could post a picture of her walking shoes next to the sink, or set an alarm on her phone.

9. Set Up a Tracking System, either digitally or on paper (preferred because it can be posted where you’ll see it daily….). It can be simple – just a place to place a big check mark, or a smiley face, or whatever makes you happy, in the box for that day, every time you do your goal action.

Icing On The Cake (Or A Cherry On Your Sundae)

All of the above is to help you properly set and commit to your goals. There is more though – catching yourself “doing something right” (taking your goal action) and rewarding yourself for it. Yup, a reward –your brain loves rewards. It will help to make the new behavior “stick.”

10. Strike a Pose – when you finish your goal activity, give yourself at least a few seconds to notice that you just succeeded at taking your goal action. Reward yourself by: 1) striking a “power pose”, such as putting your arms up in the air, in victory, or your hands on your hips, with authority. 2) say something positive to yourself, such as “Good job.” Incorporate also the following elements.

11. Self-Talk? Yes, Like This….  Use the word “you,” or your own name, as you talk to yourself. Sally would say, “Great job, Sally!” or “You did a great job!” Should you catch yourself using negative self-talk, it’ll almost always involve the word “I.” So, instead of, “I can’t do this; I always fail,” say, “You can do this, Sally. You have such wonderful determination.” Yes, this is scientifically backed.

12. Generate a positive feeling. Genuinely appreciate yourself for your efforts. Really feel it. Research from the Institute of HeartMath shows that positive emotions can change our whole physiology for the better, improving our mood, thinking ability and performance.

All of the above is to help you properly set and commit to your goals. There is more though – catching yourself “doing something right” (taking your goal action) and rewarding yourself for it. Yup, a reward –your brain loves rewards. It will help to make the new behavior “stick.”

13. Get support! Ideally, you’ll tell a friend what you’re up to. And ask him or her to join you! Post on Facebook. Reach out for an accountability partner. And/or…..see our next point….

14. Try coaching! (Naturally, I’m biased since I am a health coach who loves supporting you in reaching your goals.) If you find that you don’t have the support you need in your life, it’s ok to reach out beyond the confines of your family and friends. This is especially true if they have habits you want to break free from – it’s important to hang out with those already doing what you want to do or become.

15. And, for those of you who want to optimize all of your brain, try training your brain with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback (spoiler alert - I’m biased). Over time, this brain training works with your own natural brain plasticity to help make optimal functioning more automatic.

What Success Will You Cook Up?

What do you think? Can you see yourself using these ingredients to cook up something wonderful? Are you with me in the kitchen of life?

I’ve decided: I’m in. I want to finally make a daily habit of one of the health practices recommended by my Health Hero, Dr. Datis Kharrazian. And, if you’ll tell me your resolution in the comments below, likely I’ll tell you mine….

And you?

The overall plan is, you’ll do the above, and take your Goal Action daily for the first 30 days. You’ll reward yourself in the moment, each time you take your action, and you’ll record this daily.

You can also record how much you actually do, because on many days you’ll exceed your goal. (Remember, your stated goal will be a minimum, such as one push up a day, but it’s fine to exceed that – as long as you do so sustainably.)

At the end of 30 days, review your progress. Do you want to step up your minimum goal by a “tinch?” Remember, you can always do extra, beyond your stated goal. Or do you want to add a small second goal, while keeping on going with the first? Or keep your goal action the same, to build more momentum?

The important thing is to get started. Put these key ingredients together. Build momentum. Stoke your confidence. Amp up your self esteem. You can do this if you know the way.

Apply the strategies above, and you will be unstoppable.

Rachel Haverkos

About the author

Rachel’s background in occupational therapy and health coaching contribute to her lifelong interest in brain health. People wanting to stay sharp hire her to help protect & enhance their brain, because they want to avoid dementia but don’t know how. So she gives them the knowledge, clarity, and confidence needed to be their vibrant best self, for life. Through Vibrant Brain For Life, she shares evidence-based tools, strategies, and resources online and in person. When not at her desk, she’s likely enjoying the wildflowers of Sedona, or greeting guests at her Airbnb.

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