by Lori Montry
As Einstein is often attributed with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.”
Hey Einstein, where were you all those New Year’s mornings when I vowed to once again lose those ten pounds, stick to my yoga practice, or read a book every month? I could have really used your advice back then, since my plan consisted of relying on my willpower alone. I was the very definition of insane! My list of resolutions looked pretty much identical, year after year. (Okay, if I’m being honest, it looked the same for decades) But I wasn’t the only one. Studies indicate that more than 85% of people have been in the same boat I was.
That is, until I finally learned how to use my mind, instead of my willpower to reach my goals. As January 1st, and the start of a brand-new year approaches, I now find myself chuckling at how different this holiday is for me, as opposed to past New Year’s.
At Nuuaria, we teach people how to set and meet their resolutions every single day, whether it’s January 1, or mid-July. Through our six-part habit-building method, we teach you how to rely on stepping-stones you’ve created for yourself instead of sheer willpower. In this blog, we’ll touch on the six-steps that you can use to become one of the few people that won’t need to make the same old resolution again because the one you set this year will have already been accomplished!
The brain only has access to past experiences, so it will try to convince you that change is not possible. The brain says, “I always relax in front of the TV when I get home, I can’t workout instead.”
“The biggest killer of change is not believing that change is possible.”
Choosing change simply means that you want it, and believe it is possible for you.
When choosing a habit that you want to create, choose something that you feel connected to because it adds value to your life. Don’t pick a diet because someone or societal ‘norms’ has convinced you ‘need’ to do it. If it’s a ‘should’ or not something you believe in, choose something else with more meaning to you.
It’s also important to pick one, specific behavior at a time. Good goals are not – lose weight, be more productive, or get in shape. These goals are too broad. Better goals are: “I want to begin a ten-minute morning practice every day,” or “I want to get 8 hours of sleep most nights.” Limiting yourself to one goal at a time has been shown in studies to greatly increase your chances for success.
As I said earlier that the biggest killer of change, is not believing that it’s possible, and the second biggest killer, is taking on too much, too quickly. Starting a restrictive diet, running 5 miles on day one, or trying to adopt too many new behaviors all at once will lead straight to burnout rather than success. Instead, focus on a tiny, weekly goal which will ultimately help you reach your larger goal.
If you attempt to go from zero to sixty with a new exercise habit or your food choices on day one, you will encounter a lot of resistance from your brain. But if you go in with a more reasonable request – say 10 minutes of movement most days, or a reduction of your sugar intake, any resistance will be much more manageable.
Each small success helps to build, your confidence, motivation, and willpower. Contrast that to setting your goal too high and not being able to meet it most of the time.
Your environment plays an important role in helping or hindering your efforts in building new habits. This includes the people that you interact with and the physical spaces where you will carry out your new habit. Who and what you surround yourself with can make the difference between succeeding or staying stuck. In order to succeed, it is important to you have friends and relatives who are supportive and on a similar journey. Identify those you believe will support you and ask them to Who are those people in your life? Ask them to be your source of inspiration.
Likewise, when you create an environment that is consistent with your goals, you’re much more likely to meet those goals. For example, if you are working to build a meditation practice, consider having a designated space for this practice. Set up the space with the things that you need to make it comfortable (like a candle, a journal, pen, pillows etc.).
In order to make a habit stick, it is useful to consider the following helpful tools. The first one is setting an action trigger, and the second is offering immediate rewards. An action trigger is simply a reminder that you are trying to create a new behavior. It’s easy to say in the morning, “Today, I’m going to drink eight glasses of water,” or “I’m going to take three mindful breaks through the day,” but once you are getting ready for bed, you realize that you forgot all about your goal. Action triggers help keep your goals in the front of your mind.
Successful action triggers are any method to help you remember what you are trying to do. Whether you utilize sticky notes, reminders on your phone, asking a friend to remind you, leaving your gym bag by the door, or filling your water bottle the night before, can all be useful reminders. Utilizing your calendar and scheduling things firmly is also an effective way to set an action trigger.
With respect to creating immediate rewards, it’s helpful to remember that your brain will always choose what is closest to pleasure and furthest from pain. Therefore, when you are deciding whether to hit the snooze button, or get up for your morning workout, your brain will choose to hit the snooze button because it is easier in the moment. However, when you reward the behavior that you want to create, it makes the activity less painful. Providing that immediate, positive feedback keeps your brain coming back for more. Likewise, the more you enjoy a behavior, the more you will strengthen the behavior. As you develop the new behaviors, ask how you can make it more enjoyable and how you can reward yourself for doing it. Consider the following:
Just as CEOs take time to evaluate their business strategies, every seven days you make a point to sit down and evaluate your stepping-stones, and progress. The important questions to ask yourself in this process are:
If you don’t evaluate your goals, action-triggers, and stepping-stones regularly, it will be more difficult to change or establish new habits. Lastly, remember that your ‘CEO time’ is a place for data collection, not judgment. It is time to look at the things that went well and ask yourself how you can increase the positives. This is not the time to judge what didn’t go as planned.
When you take the time to make a plan that follows the guidelines above, you will be working with your brain rather than against it. You can leave the insanity of trying the same thing yet again (and expecting a different result), giving yourself the opportunity to build your new habit(s) easily and effectively.
Change can happen for you and it can happen permanently when you have the right tools supporting you. Let Nuuaria help you usher in the New Year and new habits to help you reach your goals.