How to make New Year’s Resolutions work

you_revolution17 jan2015

  • Why is it no matter how much time most people are given, they often finish jobs or tasks at the last minute and are left feeling completely stressed out?
  • Why is it that very high wage earners end up broke?
  • Why do organisations get stuck firefighting?
  • Why do the lonely find it hard to make friends or to find a partner?
    Why do most New Year Resolutions fail by February?

These questions seem unconnected, yet drawing on a raft of research in psychology and behavioral economics, Harvard economist Mullainathan and Princeton psychologist Shafir illustrate that they are all examples of a mind-set produced by scarcity. Put simply, you and most people, often force the brain to focus on alleviating pressing shortages and thus reducing the mental bandwidth available to address other needs such as:

  • planning ahead
  • exert self-control
  • problem solving

The result these academics argue, is a life fixated on agonising trade-offs, crises, and preoccupations that impose persistent negative thinking and self defeating actions.

Back to New Year Resolutions:

So what’s your resolution this year?

  • to lose weight?
  • to exercise more?
  • to stop smoking, gambling or drinking?
  • to develop better money management strategies?
  • to relax more and stop spending so much time at work?

the list can often be endless……….

According to Psychology today, “making resolutions work is essentially changing behaviors and in order to do that, you have to change your thinking and “rewire” your brain. Brain scientists such as Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist Stephen Hayes have discovered, through the use of MRIs, that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decision. Trying to change that default thinking by “not trying to do it,” in effect just strengthens it. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.”

If we take the example of a weight loss resolution:

Instead of focusing on deprivation and starving yourself, ie scarcity, begin your resolution by developing a positive mindset of abundance.

Here’s how:

(1) firstly, adopt a positive affirmation statement in the present tense such as “I’m happy and grateful that I have lost 5lbs this week” repeat this at least 40 times each morning and then just before you go to sleep for at least a two week period

(2) then, find a photo of yourself when you were slim or a photo of someone else in a magazine who is slim and look at this following each affirmation

(3) Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment by moment, rather than living in the past or future

(4) Last but not least, reflect on this statement: you never fail if you never give up

In other words, it’s about moderation not deprivation and adopting a small steps approach such as:

setting a specific realistic goal such as aiming to loose 5lbs by the end of January not something vague like to loose weight.

Sounds simple and perhaps mumbo jumbo doesn’t it? However, I have used this technique with several clients and friends to help them tackle issues such as:

  • overcoming procrastination
  • overcoming addictions
  • overcoming shyness and social phobia
  • overcoming anxiety and exhaustion
  • overcoming loneliness

The results have often been astounding. Having said that though, most of these clients have undertaken a few counselling or coaching sessions with me, Karen Deeming, before adopting the above exercise in order to achieve their goals.

What’s the primary principle behind this techique?

The subconscious mind operates 95% of your life and only 5% of what you are thinking or perceiving is your conscious mind. The subconscious mind works most effectively with pictures and imagery so you want to take advantage of that, ie the photos. Once you train your subconscious mind to focus on the things that you want then your performance starts to follow because your performance is always aligned with your subconscious mind.

Also as children we picked up messages from parents, peers, teachers and society, not always positive, that literally form the 95% that we are not conscious of and this 95% is really running the show often resulting in fears and doubts that cause us to procrastinate or to feel stuck and demotivated.

For example:

  • don’t dream like this
  • you can never have this kind of house
  • don’t set yourself up for failure
  • you can never run your own business it’s too risky

We then blame our doubts and fears on the external world and we play the victim but the reality is it is our own selfs we are our own saboteurs.

The weight loss exercise is an ideal tool to reprogramme your subconscious and of course your unhealthy, scarcity mindset.

Does any of this sound familiar? What can you do about it?

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you’ve probably fallen victim to the scarcity trap and mind set. Naturally, the reason will be different for each person and remember you’re not alone in this very common dilemma…

Take control of your negative internal chatter box alias “inner critic”.

Over to you:

If after reading this blog you are still struggling to overcome your scarcity mindset and are feeling overwhelmed with distractions and negative thoughts don’t panic or give up just yet.

On line coaching, counselling or a personal development or mindfulness course can help you.

I’ll end with a few insights that have helped me, Karen Deeming, along the way:

  • whatever is going on in your mind is what you are attracting
  • happy feelings will attract more happy circumstances
  • visualize and rehearse your own future
  • shift your awareness
  • counselling and coaching is about personal growth and development and encouraging people to discover their potential for living as well as for people with anxiety, depression, stress, bereavement, low self esteem, and relationship difficulties.