Advertising

The Secret To Making Your Resolutions Work This Year

The Secret To Making Your Resolutions Work This Year
Advertising

How’s your progress in achieving your resolutions so far? If you’re kind of stuck, here’s the secret to making your resolutions work.

The secret to making resolutions that actually work is also the secret to making a hit movie. So let me teach you how to make a hit movie.

At the start, our hero lives their ordinary life. We wouldn’t care to watch that for long, but fortunately all good stories push our hero through a door.

Advertising

open door

    The door is something irreversible; once you walk through, you can never go back. For the Matrix, it’s Neo choosing the red pill. For Gravity, it’s having your shuttle sliced to ribbons. In Shawshank Redemption, an innocent man is sentenced to life.

    The door is where the story begins. It puts our hero on a path they cannot escape, and the tension compels us to watch.

    Near the end of the story, our hero must pass through a second door. Again, the door is one-way. But this door demands a resolution. To pass through it guarantees a conclusion, whatever that may be. Our hero must fight their nemesis to the death, or chase their love to the airport, or stand before disapproving parents and dance for their hopes and dreams.

    Advertising

    door2

      It’s the formula of nearly every story ever told, because it works. Once you pass through a door, you can never go back.

      way

        Now let me tell you what isn’t a good movie.

        Our unhappy hero wakes up one late December morning and stares at the mirror. “Oh god” he sighs, at his portly reflection. “In the new year, I swear – I’m going to lose weight!”

        Advertising

        And then he updates his Facebook status, buys a copy of Runners World, and goes to the gym three times. The End.

        fat

          If you want to make a resolution – a real resolution – you’re gonna have to walk through a door. The smart, resolute part of yourself might be in control now, but you know that’s not who will stop you. The lazy, stupid, reflexive part of yourself will be in control later, when the air is cold and you feel sort-of-ill-ish-I-think, and if you haven’t got something to drag that screaming brat out of bed you will fail.

          You do this already, by the way. School, for example, is a door you can’t well choose not to pass through, which is why you attended it so successfully. Your job works in the same way, as does marriage and children. Doors are irreversible and non-optional, and our society is predicated on them.

          Advertising

          So you really want to start your own business? Try quitting your job; that’ll take care of motivation. Want to lose weight? Sign up for a marathon in 9 months in an exciting foreign country, and book the non-refundable flights now. Or if that’s more than you can handle, start a scheduled team activity where if someone misses out, it hurts the others. Guilt will carry you when willpower fails.

          Don’t jump on Facebook to announce your new resolution. It gives you a short term ego buzz now (“Look at me! I’m so awesome!”) but does zip to regulate your behaviour (few friends will remember your promise, or be so crude as to call you on it). By all means involve friends, but make your pressures real.

          Most of all, don’t make the mistake of thinking wishful words alone will get you there. Nearly everyone fails their new year’s resolutions, which should be about as surprising as learning that the words “avada kedavra” don’t actually kill people. Just saying words doesn’t make a thing happen. Walk through a door instead.

          Oliver Emberton is an entrepreneur, writer, programmer and artist who writes about life and how to make the most of it.

          Advertising

          More by this author

          Anna Chui

          Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

          The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) How to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

          Trending in Productivity

          1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on July 21, 2021

          The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

          The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
          Advertising

          No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

          Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

          Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

          A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

          Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

          In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

          Advertising

          From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

          A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

          For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

          This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

          The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

          That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

          Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

          Advertising

          The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

          Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

          But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

          The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

          The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

          A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

          For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

          Advertising

          But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

          If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

          For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

          These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

          For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

          How to Make a Reminder Works for You

          Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

          Advertising

          Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

          Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

          My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

          Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

          I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

          More on Building Habits

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Advertising

          Reference

          [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

          Read Next