If you’re like me (and at least 50% of Americans) It’s likely that you’ve been dancing into New Year resolutions. (Yay for positive growth and self-care!)
This time of year is a great time for renewed commitment. But, it turns out that 88% of Americans fail at meeting their New Year resolutions.
(What interests me about my resolutions – and yours – is what might cause us to succeed in keeping them. So, I’ve done some research into the science.)
It turns out that motivation doesn’t function in terms of broad goals. Our brains just get overwhelmed when we tell ourselves to do things like “loose weight,” “work smarter,” “eat healthier.”
We are hard wired to change incrementally – in specific, manageable ways.
In my coaching practice and in the practice of Dancing Freedom, which is a practice of self development and liberation, I like to say, “Non-specificity is a form of sabotage.” In other words:
We need to be specific about what we want to change, create, let go of or begin, if we are going to succeed in living the lives we want for ourselves.
Here are 5 tips for making commitments to yourself for the coming year (or any time of year) that stick.
1.) Focus on intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals.
We are more deeply motivated by goals that come from inside – goals like feeling good, having more intimacy, practicing gratitude or connecting with wild nature. External goals – like looking good, having more friends or making more money – set us up to fail in our own eyes and in the eyes of the projected “other” who we are trying to please.
2.) Be specific rather than general.
Get very clear about the habit you want to change, rather than setting a generalized goal. Examples:
General resolution: Dance more.
Specific habit: I dance twice times a week – once on Sundays and at least one other class or event.
General resolution: Eat healthy.
Specific habit: I make a green smoothie every morning instead of coffee and toast (yummm!).
General resolution: Get in shape.
Specific habit: I take a power walk every morning after finishing the kid’s breakfast and my first round of to-dos.
General resolution: Manage stress.
Specific habit: I take 5 minutes every morning to breathe and pray before I do anything else.
3.) One goal rather than a life-makeover.
Decide the one thing that is most important to you, then focus on that. Example: I’m focusing on radiant health. This also supports me in secondary goals around spiritual practice, fitness, diet and stress management.
4.) Doable rather than crazy ambitious.
Similarly, choose something you can actually DO, rather than thin about while you feel shameful and guilty that you’re not doing it. My to-do is to exercise at least 5 days a week in a way that gives me joy (dance, yoga, hiking, riding my bike).
5.) Notice and affirm.
When you DO that one, doable thing, make sure you a.) notice yourself doing it and b.) affirm yourself for doing it. This creates a positive loop in the brain that allows the habit to stick. (It turns out that we are not that different from Pavlov’s dogs.)
6.) Create accountability.
Write down your goals or tell a few friends or loved ones who are willing to check in with you on a regular basis about your progress.
I hope this helps you focus your intentions and resolutions for the coming year. As I move into my own intention of RADIANT HEALTH, I hope to see you in the dance!
I found this useful, too. 🙂