How to Make 2018 Your Most Successful Year Ever!
Each New Year, people all over the world commit to diets, healthy living, new personal goals and resolutions in an effort to be better than the year before. But so many of these efforts fall short of the goal and people return to their previous habits. But resolutions CAN be successful, with a shift in Mindset. Learn how embracing a change in Mindset leads to lasting success.
Resolutions are our attempt at achieving a new version of ourselves despite the obstacles. Though they are often fueled by the media, product promotions and trends in health (from the grapefruit diet in the ‘60s to todays’ keto diet), resolutions are both a personal and collective attempt to a become better version of the person we are today (thinner, wealthier, more empathic, more motivated, etc.) and most often these resolutions include worthwhile goals we SHOULD want to achieve because they are typically centered on improved performance and healthy outcomes (I’ve yet to learn of a friend who aspired to eat only fast food for one year!) But when we don’t achieve our resolutions, laziness or a lack of willpower are often to blame. We accept that we must be incapable, unwilling or unsuccessful at goal setting. But the real culprit of ruin is actually a more ancient and cerebral player in the game of behavior – the status quo bias! Our brains are literally pre-programmed to do the same things over and over again (like the definition of insanity) despite best intentions. While resolutions are a worthwhile endeavor, we are unable to achieve success because we don’t know how to overcome our instinctual nature.
This status quo bias impacts more than our New Year goals – every time we strive to achieve a new outcome we are potentially thwarted by biases embedded deep within our psyche. This happens because habits – good ones – keep us safe, efficient and help us survive in the human experience. But when habits form that are counter to our health or wellbeing, they are harder to overcome because nature has programmed us to repeat familiar actions. The bad news is bad habits are hard to overcome at first – the good news is that once a new habit is formed with consistency and rigor, it’s likely to last a lifetime! To reset our old habits in favor of new ones, we just need to employ a few mindful strategies to ensure success.
To achieve our resolutions, we should first start with changing our mindset!
Here are a few strategies to help:
- First, before starting on your resolution path, Define Excellence (for you!). Determine what success looks like in advance – and be specific. Write down 5-7 things that you will be able to observe when you have achieved your goal. If your goal is weight loss (for example), write down observable aspects of change that you expect to achieve (loss of scale-weight, loss of inches, fit into smaller jeans, buy a smaller size LBD, feel more energized, walk a mile without feeling breathless, etc.) and be specific enough to place realistic constraints on the outcomes (fit into smaller jeans by March 1st, lose 2 lbs per week until X-date, reduce my carb intake to no more than 45g per day, etc.) to help ensure the goal has a date to work towards and a specific set of criteria to follow.
- Next, conduct a Pre-Mortem. Look ahead a few months or a year and consider what could happen if your goal fails. How do you feel? What did you overlook? What obstacles got in the way of achieving the goal? (eg; “I didn’t pre-plan enough meals, I didn’t engage a workout buddy to hold me accountable, my 3pm snack habit led me back to the vending machine, I didn’t believe in myself to achieve my goal) – whatever you predict might throw you off track is a potential obstacle. By pre-planning to overcome known challenges, our goals become more attainable.
- Build Resilience for the journey ahead by grounding yourself in realistic optimism. Optimism for achieving a positive outcome improves your cognitive flexibility and creativity to deal with challenging situations, so when you fall off the diet wagon, you can reset and work through the challenge in a pragmatic and rational way. Maybe it’s time to set a slower pace on weight loss goals, or modify your approach. Realistic optimism keeps you focused on your goal yet more capable of remaining open and thoughtful to new solutions. Don’t give up, just take it step by step and believe you will achieve your goals.
- Check in with your emotional triggers and ensure more self-control by rehearsing how you will handle challenging situations. Imagine how you will react when your dinner date says “let’s order desert” or how you will you navigate around your mother’s insistence that you not pass up the mashed potatoes at a family meal. Practicing conversations or actions in advance – like a mental movie where you imagine yourself clearly behaving in the ways you want – helps you prepare for when these situations actually occur.
- And last but not least – connect with people who will support your efforts and cheer you on. Rely on your social network to apply a healthy dose of good-peer pressure to help you stay on course and those who will share candid, courageous communication with you when you get off track. People who create high-performing relationships (the kind of friends who have your back!) are more successful in all areas of their lives, personally and professionally.
You can success at resolutions – with mindfulness, a little planning and support – new habits can be developed to become a better version of yourself. Don’t give up!
And check back here in our Performance Blog for additional tips on productive and rewarding life.