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How I No Longer Fail My New Year’s Resolutions

How I No Longer Fail My New Year’s Resolutions

If you think, right now, of your New Year’s resolutions, what would you say about them? Would you jump up on your feet and enthusiastically start talking about your progress? Or would you barely remember them, thinking that this is yet another year you didn’t keep up with your promises?

If you don’t fire out all your goals straight away, or if you don’t feel really great about your progress, then I encourage you to read some tips on how to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. They really improved my progress, and I hope they will inspire you to make a new, fresh start.

Years ago, I was all excited when the New Year came, talking to my spouse about what I am going to accomplish that year. But a few months passed, and I had already forgotten more than half of my New Year’s resolutions, while the other half had not been even remotely achieved. One day, I stopped, thought about all my goal-setting strategy, and completely changed my approach. I became much more systematic, and the results showed very quickly: now I achieve more than 90% of all my New Year’s resolutions! So what have I changed?

1. Write down your resolutions

When I first wrote all my New Year’s resolutions down on paper, I felt a little bit foolish, thinking, “I know them all anyway, why bother writing them down?” It took me more than half a day! But it was worth doing. Why?

Writing your resolutions down on paper makes you far more committed and far less likely to forget them. Just think of what happens when you go shopping without your list. You forget to bring home half of the things you need.

Statistics show that people who write their goals down are 80% more likely to achieve them than the people who don’t.

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2. Put your emotions into your resolutions

There is a way to empower your goal setting: when writing goals down, put all of your emotions into them. Imagine the happiness when you pass the exam, imagine how you feel when you put your hands on the leather steering wheel of your new car, smell the fresh color of your newly renovated apartment.

I found out that if I can’t feel my goals when writing them down, then those goals are not really what I deeply wish to happen. So, whenever you write your goals, imagine how you will feel once you reach them.

3. Break it down

Have you ever tried to eat a whole apple in just one bite?

It works the same way with your goals. Break them down into small, managable pieces. See what you can achieve in the first 3 months, then what you can achieve in 6 months, 9 months, and finally in a year.

The feeling of succeeding at each step on your way to your New Year’s resolutions is so rewarding that you will enjoy the journey, not just the final victory.

4. Set up specific days

Last year I decided to gain some muscle mass. I knew I had to do my exercises regularly (apart from taking great care with my diet), not allowing myself to make any excuses. So I set up specific days when I would go to work out.

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I highly encourage you to set specific days or specific hours when you do the things which will bring you closer to your goals. You might set up half an hour every morning to read a motivational book, or go jogging 3 times per week.

Stick to your routine, no matter what. Once you get into a habit, the habit becomes part of you, and suddenly you start to do it naturally.

5. Measure your progress regularly

I do my body scan at least once a month to measure my progress in gaining muscle mass so that I can do some minor corrections in my exercise and nutrition routine, if necessary. Measure your progress on your way: how much weight you lost last week, what is the progress of your sales skills, how much money you saved this month, etc.

6. Show your New Year’s resolutions to your spouse/best friend

When you show your resolutions to your close friend, it automatically makes you feel much more committed. I show my New Year resolutions to my spouse and my children, and if you have children, you know that they can be really tough judges!

You can even take it a step further: write some of your goals on your Facebook profile!

7. Use the rule BE, DO, HAVE

We usually think of what we want to HAVE: more money, more freedom, more love, etc.

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When writing my goals I always ask myself what kind of a person I have to BE first, in order to DO things in a certain way which will lead me to HAVE a desired thing. Start thinking in the “BE, DO, HAVE” way, and your effectiveness will significantly improve.

8. Put just a little pressure on yourself

We all procrastinate, sometimes. How can we avoid it?

Pay some cash to your spouse/best friend/your children when you don’t keep up with your promises. If you don’t want to be broke, you better keep doing what is necessary to reach your New Year’s resolutions. I keep my “procrastination money” well in control.

9. Make a dream board

Go to Google, find out all the nice things you want to be, want to do, and want to have. Cut out a perfect body you want to have and stick the photo of your face on it, find a beautiful car you wish to have, whatever you wish. Place your dream board somewhere so that you can see it every day.

My dream board is hanging on the wall of my bedroom so it always reminds me where I want to be heading towards.

10. Reward yourself

Whenever I reach a significant step on my way to my New Year’s resolutions, I take my family to a nice restaurant. (My children always remind me if there is too much time between celebrations).

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Never forget to reward yourself when you reach a milestone on your way. It will make you proud of yourself and will increase your confidence.

11. Use visualisation every day

Every morning, I wake up half an hour earlier just to visualise all my New Year’s resolutions. I see them one after the other and I try to see all the details. I repeat the process when I go to bed.

Tip: When visualizing your goals, don’t make only static pictures, like a car and nothing else. See yourself moving in your pictures, see yourself driving that car. This technique was developed years ago by Russian athletic teams, and it is really powerful.

12. And finally: Find a mentor

If you have really high goals, you need some guidance. There is no better way to achieve your goals than to have a mentor who has already walked the way you are on.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have your mentor in person. I have a mentor for online marketing, but I have never spoken to him in person. I take advice from him via webinars and newsletters. You can even find your mentor in books or YouTube videos.

Put these things into practice, and I am sure that in a short period of time, you will notice significant progress on your way to accomplishing your New Year’s resolutions like I did. And when somebody asks you about your resolutions, you will jump up on your feet and excitedly talk about your great progress.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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