Did you create any new year resolutions for yourself? How are they going for you?
My New Year Resolutions Challenge
For me, 2017 flew by like a blur punctuated by several ups and downs, which of course, is quite normal.
Until a few years ago, I would make new year resolutions – actually, at least three. I’d start off with a lot of excitement and determination. The first few days would be tough but I’d always try to motivate myself to not give up.
But a part of my brain betrayed me every time I tried to follow through with my new year resolutions. Just when I told myself that I was doing really well with the resolutions and seeing results, my effort to keep up would start to wane. It’s like I sabotaged myself every time I patted my own back.
The Theory of Rewarding Oneself
It’s been scientifically proven that rewarding oneself when a task is completed activates the reward centre of the brain that releases a hormone called dopamine. So, here I was rewarding myself with a pat on my back but it just wasn’t working.
A quick fact about Dopamine – it’s also known as the feel good hormone and each time the brain releases it, the brain tends to create a situation similar to the one that triggered the initial release.
In simple terms, if a specific action triggered the release of dopamine, the brain tries to recreate that specific action to enable another instance of dopamine release.
By setting a reward for yourself, you can motivate the brain to help you complete a task so you can take the reward. When you set a reward for every time you want to achieve something, the brain will automatically create the set of actions that will help you get there.
So, what is it that really went wrong when I felt good about working on my new year resolutions in the past?
My New Year Resolutions Changes
Over the last few of years, I’ve made a couple of changes that now help me succeed –
Firstly, I actually never make resolutions anymore but set myself some goals instead. Why? Because my resolutions would be all over the place and mostly unrelated to each other.
It is tough to keep up when you have totally unrelated goals or resolutions. This is because the brain cannot handle too many new habits or topics at the same time. Thus, now I set goals that are related to each other and that helps me stay on track.
The other thing I do is I set myself a tangible reward and no longer just a pat on the back. The size and amplitude of the goal I want to achieve determines the size and type of my reward.
A Quick Example of Setting New Year Resolutions
Let me give you an example –
If I plan on losing some extra weight that I’ve been carrying around, it’s a huge deal for me. I’m a real foodie so diets don’t come easily to me. But if I set myself a “big-ish” reward for achieving this goal, I know it’s going to keep me motivated. I set a reward of a new wardrobe for myself if I can lose 10 lbs within a set period of time.
However, you can set small rewards for yourself for the intermediate steps. For example, I could decide on rewarding myself with a bar of dark chocolate. But I can only take this if I keep to my exercise schedule for the week. This would definitely help keep me motivated knowing that I’m not completely depriving myself of the things I love.
You’re Allowed to Trip Up
Having a reward sit in front of me like the proverbial carrot on the stick really helps me to come back on track even if I get derailed. I try to follow through with the original timeline. However, if things or life get in the way, I allow myself to drift a little until I pick up the thread again.
The idea is to pick yourself up again and continue on your path. We all falter; but the person who will finally succeed is one who will pick themselves up again and again. They will keep forging ahead at any cost.
If you have trouble trying to stay on a schedule, try to schedule appointments on your calendar so they work for you. Time blocking is another extremely helpful way of staying on track and doing what you need to get done.
I’m sure this year holds a lot of promise but I’m certain that it also holds a lot of uncertainty. When we start the new year, we’re always filled with a lot of gusto. But as the days progress, we start losing steam and find more obstacles that hold us back.
But I can guarantee you’ll have better results if you were to only follow this process of rewarding yourself. Come to think of it – it’s a win-win situation. You not only accomplish the goal you’d set out for yourself, but you also get to earn a reward for something that’s good for you.
Isn’t that a great way to stick to your new year resolutions this year? Give it a try and reset your resolutions to fit this model if you’re serious about achieving your goals.
If you’d like some guidance on how to set new year resolutions or just have a fulfilling 2018, I’d be happy to help you with that.