I bet you have already experienced the bitter disappointment of the new-year-new-me enthusiasm disappearing into thin air round about March-April. Don’t feel bad, 92% of new year resolutions never see a proper follow-through. That’s interesting considering the annual profusion of clever articles and books on how to get better at hitting your targets. Most of us have incorporated or at least heard of SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-specific). We know about the importance of support (hello, gym buddy). We have the pressure of social media acting as accountability and comparison systems. And we still keep failing. What are we missing?
The problem is that we assume ourselves to be rational, motivated and self-aware. We are none of those things. Your rational thoughts live in the area of the brain called pre-frontal cortex, which occupies a measly 30% of your skull. Most of human behavior is guided by emotions and instincts. Willpower ebbs and flows, while self-awareness is famously lacking in the modern heavily bombarded consumer brain (head to Bali Advertise online stock of articles to dig out my previous discussion on the death of self-awareness). Given this reality, how can you hack your new year resolutions?
Look at what hides underneath your new year goals.
Whipping your desires into something specific and measurable sounds seductively logical, doesn’t it? Indeed, it’s easy to get lost in the vague ‘I want to look better’. Compare this to ‘I want to drop 5kg so that I can fit into my old jeans’. Boom. Clear, trackable, objective. But are those jeans REALLY your ultimate desire? Does the number on the scale REALLY matter? Most likely the answer is no. What you REALLY want is to be noticed more. Feel more attractive. More confident. Have a better love life. The dreamers of having a million dollars are not jouncing for 1 000 000 pieces of paper, but for a lifestyle that they think the cash will provide. They are after the feeling of safety or freedom. Boiling down your abstract dreams to a clear roadmap works only if you are 100% aware of the underlying reasons for the items on your wish list.
So the first step would be to dig deeper going beyond what’s on the surface. Take your time. You probably know what you want, you probably think about it quite often. Nonetheless, sit down for a couple of hours somewhere quiet, write down all your desires and see if you can drill down to your core feelings and desires. If you want to get fancy with it, try a few different methods of enquiry, such as meditative enquiry, stream of consciousness writing or inner dialogue.
Just be it.
You might have seen this; you might have cringed at this slogan that seems to be plastered on so many Instagram accounts – You are already what you want to be. What the hell does that suppose to mean?! I can’t remember hiding a million dollars anywhere! Well, this is where the first exercise of unraveling what you REALLY want comes in handy.
Let’s go back to the example of wanting to lose weight (#1 goal by popularity, by the way). You dug a little deeper and figured out that what you really want is to be more confident. The thing is, you already KNOW what confidence feels like. If you close your eyes and spend 5 minutes thinking back to a situation when you experienced the feeling of confidence, you will undoubtedly end up feeling it (try this right now). The knowledge and skill of how to feel confident is already in you. It does need to be surgically transplanted. It’s not something you find on the ground, pick up and boom ‘I’ve got me some confidence’. You have it already. And because you already have it, what you are actually looking for is simply knowing how to experience this state more often. What you want is to learn how to enter it easier, faster and how to make sure that this feeling doesn’t leave you, especially in challenging situations. So what you should be doing instead of (or in addition to) counting calories is becoming good at producing this state on demand. There are so many techniques that can help you with that – from visualization exercises to working with power poses or dancing your way into your warrior-state.
This may sound like some new age hoopla, but hard science is finally emerging to explain why body-centered approaches from the ancient traditions actually work. For example, we now know that 80% of the vagus nerve in the body is afferent, meaning that the nerve that connects your body to your brain carries only 20% of messages from the brain to the body. The rest of the nerve’s capacity is used for delivering messages from the body to the brain. This is why power poses work in tricking your brain into confidence. This is why when you breathe deeply, your brain thinks you are relaxed. By learning how to manipulate your body you can steer your mind into feeling certain emotions.
Not using your body and emotions in working towards your goals is like stepping into a boxing ring with one hand tied behind your back. If you want to give yourself a fighting chance to be the person you want to be why not use all of your capacity? A word of warning, you will have to practice a lot and you will have to be patient. But out of this work you will get the ultimate reward – being at your best, being in your element at all times regardless of what’s happening around you. Which is better than the most ambitious new year resolution.
PS if you would like some extra help with your new year resolutions, there is a wonderful workshop 3-day workshop The Science of Transformation coming up in April 2019. Get in touch for more information (contact details below).
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