New Year’s resolutions work, or do they?
I’d argue that yes, they do work, and they work just so often that they give us the illusion that they might work again this year.
If resolutions never worked for you or anybody else, then nobody would bother coming up with them in the first place right?
We would still come up with resolutions because they are designed to appeal to our emotions, to produce good feelings about ourselves and the future. They take pressure off of the present while installing a perfect illusion of the future.
Which means that they’re not intended to change your behavior in any way.
The main problem with resolutions and why they don’t work most of the time is because the New Year resolution functions by imagination.
Meaning that you imagine a different future and then put that future into conflict with the version of you that is currently imagining that future.
In other words, as soon as you make a New Year’s resolution you have at least two of you there:
The one in the future behaving differently and theoretically behaving like your potential best self would behave, and you have your present self who is dreaming of and imagining that future.
This causes an internal conflict.
Why a conflict? Because when you are doing this you’re attempting to ally yourself with your future self against your current self and this doesn’t work. The only thing it does is causing dissonance.
In the best case scenario you’ll forget your New Year’s resolution so that you get away from the conflict as soon as possible. In the worst case you will keep on fighting with your current and future self. Which in turn reduces your morale by making the future a less positive place as a result of past failures to make that future better.
How do you get what you want, if resolutions are not the key?
As I said in the beginning resolutions do “work” kind of at least. And if we couple it with the knowledge that we get from Neuroscience then they aren’t even so bad as people make them out to be.
Change your Neural pathways through different kind of thinking in order to make your resolutions work.
You should go about this in a very logical manner. What do I want? How do I get it? What do I need to do to get it? What could happen that I might have to prepare for? Write and answer these questions and then go for it. Sounds simple? Because it is.
Achieving your goals means changing your behavior, and to change your behavior, you have to change your thinking/rewire your brain.
For you to do that, you need to know that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which then become the default state for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decisions.
Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.
Resolutions, visions, goals, they all “work” but for them to work you have to change your thinking which in turn means your behavior, which is affected by your neural pathways.
Therefore it’s probably the best if you choose something that you enjoy doing in the next year and then work towards that.
Doing that will ensure that you build a good and strong neural pathway towards that particular goal and you will be more likely to achieve it.
What else can you do to make next year a success?
Besides changing the way you think, you can start planning. Here’s what I did in preparation for the next year.
I planned ahead for the whole year of 2017 and will review those plans and goals I made every season, spring, summer, autumn and winter & I would advice you to do the same.
I’ll be monitoring my finances, make writing my main priority for 2017 which means I’ll try to finish several books next year. Moving places and a bunch of other stuff. In some cases I am using tools to monitor my progress, in others, I just go and create an Excel file make it appealing and keep track on my goals and ambitions.
Sure you might not know what’s coming next year but a plan doesn’t mean that you can’t change things along the way, and if you hate your plan (which you shouldn’t because you made it in the first place) then you can simply scratch the plan and make a new one.
This article helped me with the creation of a plan, highly recommend that you give it a read.
Resolutions are no special formula that enable you to reinvent yourself from one day to another. Every day after you made that resolution will be the same unless you do the things that bring you closer to the things that you set out for yourself.
In order for your resolutions to work you need to change your thinking. You can start by thinking more positively about yourself.
And last but not least: Have a plan, track your life via a journal or some other tool and start optimizing from there.
A perfect plan doesn’t mean having everything go within expectations. A perfect plan is achieved when it has the plasticity needed to deal flexibly with troubles.
Thanks for reading and until next time.
P.S. If you liked this post then you’ll like my books as well. You can get them on Amazon.