We’ve reached mid-February. The holiday season is behind us and odds are you are back in the swing of the usual routine that keeps going until it’s time to start attending Christmas parties again (which can be a good or bad thing).
At the beginning of the year, thinking about and even setting New Year’s resolutions is common. I think the notion of reflecting on the year that was and setting good intentions for the next 12 months is great. That said, most New Year’s resolutions aren’t kept.
Some internet research around how long New Year’s resolutions actually last reveals varying results – although not that much variation. The theme seems to be that most New Year’s resolutions have gone to the wayside by the end of January; some as early as the middle of January. One report for example, stated that by the end of January, only 23% of New Year’s resolutions were kept. In other words, about 4 out of 5 people who set New Year’s resolutions have let then go by the end of the first month.
Based on this information, I would be able to safely say that more than half the people reading this article right now would be thinking ‘Yeah, that’s true, I have let my resolutions go.’
So I reckon about mid-February could be the perfect time for me to put some of the fuel back into your New Year’s resolutions.
To do this, here are a few things I want you to think about…
Relapse is a part of change
According to Stober and Grant (2006), on average, people will relapse 6 to 8 times before managing to maintain a new behaviour. So don’t give up. If you have already relapsed once, you still have at least 5 lives to go! And don’t bother wasting any energy noticing the relapse. It is what it is. You’re human and making a permanent change usually takes time. You may not remember it, but there was a time when you made a decision that you were going to walk. Making that decision didn’t mean you were walking the next day. The process of learning to walk means falling over numerous times. Eventually, it became automatic.
Your brain doesn’t like change
As per last week’s article… Understand that looking for the easiest, least energy consuming way to do just about anything is human nature. Additionally, your brain has a blanket rule about avoiding change, because the unknown – no matter how small – should always be treated with caution (it’s the brain’s ‘better to be safe than sorry’ rule). So, consciously or unconsciously, it will always be your default to want to take the easiest option, which may just be to say to yourself ‘This New Year’s Resolution it never going to work anyway because…’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’.
There are times when it is necessary for your brain to function with such caution so this default is not going to change. Instead, when you have a goal – and you know it’s in your best interests to achieve it – it is up to you to use your WILL to move against your default, even if you start with just one small thing that moves you in the direction of your goal (For more related to this, I love Mel Robbin’s book: Stop Saying You’re Fine).
Goals tell your brain what to notice
Every second, through each of your senses, your brain is taking in millions of bits of information. You brain cannot process all of the information, so it chooses which of the information it believes is important and discards the rest. For any woman who has ever been pregnant and then suddenly starts seeing pregnant people everywhere. Or for anybody who has bought a new car and then starts seeing the same car everywhere they go… There are not suddenly more pregnant women around, and there are not suddenly more of your car around. The quantities haven’t changed. All that has shifted is your brain’s decision about what information is relevant to you and therefore important enough for you to notice.
If I set a goal that I want to go on holiday to New Zealand, which advertisements do you think are going to be grabbing my attention the next time I am flicking through the newspaper? Most likely all the ads that say something like ‘New Zealand on Sale’. So having goals is a way of telling your brain what to notice and increases the chance that the information your brain chooses to register and process is information that you decide is relevant.
Set goals and drive your brain, otherwise it will drive you based on default “important” information – usually your fears. Speaking of driving, you brain is actually a lot like a car… Put a more practiced driver in control and you’re more likely to get better performance out of the car and more likely to end up at your desired destination quicker and in better shape.
Plus, your brain goes with you everywhere and it’s free to use! So even if you’re New Year’s resolutions have gone to the wayside, just set new goals – or have another go at the one’s you’d already decided on. Don’t wait for the end of the year. Who’s to say that New Year’s resolutions are better than February resolutions anyway?