I won’t ask you to raise your hand if you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution. I doubt there would be anyone who didn’t say they did at some point in their life. A different question would be to ask how many of you actually made good on 100% of your resolutions? Anybody? Beuller…Bueller…
Before you begin to beat yourself up, I have good news for you. It’s not your fault. Making “traditional” New Year’s resolutions doesn’t work. I’m going to explain why and then challenge you to take a different approach for 2021 to make your dreams and aspirations come true.
First, let’s set some context. Why do we make resolutions in the first place? The ancient Babylonians, Romans and early Christians all made resolutions in hopes that good conduct would make for a more prosperous year. Today, we don’t exactly expect our losing those 10 pounds to appease the gods, we do look to a better year by stopping or at least changing bad habits.
Research tells us that about 50 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions on any given year, yet less than 10 percent actually keep them for more than few months. Remember that gym membership you let lapse by March? You’re not alone. We’ve all seen our resolutions fade into the preverbal sunset much sooner than we planned.
The problem with resolutions and their lack of “sticking,” is because of how our brain works. Neuroscience teaches that our brains are two-sided: left brain, focused on logic and order, and right brain, filled with emotion and imagination. Together, they make a powerful partnership that energizes us with the gumption to fulfill our life plans. The problem with resolutions is that they are using only one part of our brain.
Dictionaries defines a resolution as “the act of determining; a conclusion; a position arrived at after consideration.” The decision to lose weight (the most common New Year’s resolution, by the way), start exercising or stop smoking makes sense if we want to live healthier lives. Reducing our spending and saving more of our money will provide more financial security. Learning a new skill or changing jobs can further your career. If these outcomes sound at all like something Mr. Spock from Star Trek would say, you’re right. They are completely logical goals. The problem is we don’t fuel our actions through logic and reason.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s research in modern economic theory (which earned him the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002) proved that we, as humans, make decisions emotionally first, rationally second. It is the intuition, imagination and emotion of the right brain that is the engine behind our behaviors. It makes sense – just consider a few of the recent decisions you’ve made. That new car? Yes, the one that has the best mileage and consumer ratings deserves some consideration. But look at that one with the sporty look and it goes from zero to 60 in 3 seconds. Or when you needed to trade in your old cell phone. Sure, this one has a better warranty, but that one is red! My favorite color! See? Emotions 1, logic zilch. (And true story, this is exactly what I did and I still have my red phone.)
So what does this all have to do with New Year’s resolutions?
We need a new strategy to set up goals for ourselves that not only inspire us, they set us up for success!
How do we do this? Let’s change our approach so we’re bringing both sides of our brains to the table. Instead of resolutions – decisions with only our left brain – let’s make New Year’s “affirmations” – statements that assert the truth – that fuel our emotions. Here are some examples:
“I need to lose 10 pounds this year.”
“I will be in my best health this year. I believe in myself and no matter what, I’m going to be proud of my accomplishment to eat well.”
“I’m going to exercise 30 minutes every day.”
“When I feel good, I’m happy. So this year, I’m going to do physical activities that fill me with joy.”
“I am going to save 10 percent of my income.”
“There is so much abundance in the world. By setting aside some of my income, I’m going to fulfill my dreams of independence.”
Try it yourself. Write out your New Year’s resolutions. Then rewrite them as affirmations – statements that inspire you, that build on joy, that cause you to smile just by reading them. If you don’t feel emotion when re-writing them, do it again. Write them out as many times as it takes until you get that “warm, fuzzy” inside. A counselor I know told me once that you know your inner emotions are stirred when you find yourself taking a big deep breath (I attest to this – happens to me all the time).
My greatest wish for all of you is that you find your dreams in this New Year and make them come true. Try this new approach - let me know how it worked. If you want to explore your professional dreams even more, contact us at NobleEdge. We'd love to accompany you on this amazing journey.
Happy New Year!