New Year's Resolution? Don't Rely On Will Power!
How are you going with your new year's resolutions? If you're going well, congratulations - keep it up! If you're beginning to struggle, here's three ways you can get back on track.
1: DON'T TAKE ON TOO MUCH
'You can do anything you want.' 'You can have it all.' 'Dream big.' Sound familiar? Those are the chants and the mantras we're told to have - the only thing keeping you back is yourself!
Well... maybe. Maybe not. When it comes to changing behaviours, the evidence seems to be that KISS (Keep It Simple, Stoopid) is the way to go. So if you're aiming to 'have it all' - you've decided you're going to lose weight, exercise more, stay in touch with your folks more, study harder, save money, learn French/Chinese/knitting/guitar (or all four!), read more, stop smoking, swear less, cut back on the booze AND change your job - then perhaps that might be why it's not going quite to plan.
SOLUTION: Pick one. One?! Yes, just one. Put all your effort and intensity into working on just one single new thing. That way, you have 100% of your will power focused on a single target - and no room for excuses! If you're sporty at all (or if you're not sporty at all), you'll already know that nothings breeds success like success, and that the experience of getting something well and truly done really gives you great momentum.
2: DON'T RELY ON YOUR WILL POWER!
Let's say you're aiming to give up chocolate. Which do you think will be easier: giving up chocolate if you have a cupboard full of... chocolate; or giving up chocolate if there's not a scrap of it to be found anywhere? It's obvious, isn't it? And why is that? Because you're not relying on your will power, you're relying on eliminating the temptation.
SOLUTION: You may have been born blessed with a stack of will power (in which case, why are you reading a blog about getting stuck keeping your new year's resolutions?!). Or, like the majority of us, you may find it hard to resist temptation. If that's the case, you can either work on having had a better upbringing and genes - and good luck with that - or you can plan how to eliminate the temptations. (Here's a really fascinating piece of research discussing just this very thing.)
3. OUTSOURCE YOUR WILL POWER
You get home from work. You've had a long and, frankly, shitty day. And because the alarm didn't go off this morning, you didn't get to go to the gym. So now you're faced with a tough, tough decision: do you head to the gym?
Nope. Half an hour later you're slumped in front of the screen. I mean, you're not superhuman!
End of story? Maybe not...
SOLUTION: It's hard to do it by yourself. That's not surprising - we're social animals. So why not recruit some help? Here's three ways you can do just that:
(a) Tell everyone you know, what you're doing. Let folk know: 'I'm doing Dry January' will get you a much more encouraging response than you might expect - and the best kind of response of all is, 'Great! Can we do it together?'
(b) Make it real, make it count. If you're saving money, get a big jar and put the money into it. If you're aiming to lose weight, pick out that outfit you want to get into and have it hanging on the door where you can see it, or stick that photo of you looking tremendous to the fridge door. Or how about putting something at stake - pledging a significant amount of money that, if you don't keep to what you're promising, goes to an anti-charity? (An anti-charity is an organisation whose views you strong oppose.) See www.stickk.com/faq/charities/Commitment+Contracts
(c) Outsource your will power. You don't feel like getting out of bed. It's too early. You don't feel motivated. Result? Turn over and go back to sleep and wake up late, feeling lousy and running late. The alternative: get a personal trainer. Now when the alarm goes, you know she'll be there, waiting for you. You know you've already paid for it, whether you go or not. You know she's going to give you that look. Result? You find yourself in the shower after your workout, feeling like you've really got your day off to a solid start.
To summarise: the difference between them that say they will and them that do it is often just the difference between them that know what works and them that don't.