If you are like most people, you are about to break your new year’s resolution by the end of this week. Knowing which changes you want to make is easy but following through on them is hard. I am here to get you back on track for the year ahead.
Realise that your mind plays ingenious tricks on you – and you need to outsmart it.
Take, for example, weight loss. There are two forces in our heads that pull us in opposite directions. On one side, there is the need to relieve us from the pain of feeling too heavy, and we want to lose weight. But then, there is always food and a glass of wine available when we need instant relaxation after a hard day at work.
The internal struggle is between avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. Your brain will want you to meet your needs in the short-term, and long-term goals fall by the wayside. Weight loss takes months before you see decent results. The pleasure of eating is instant.
Your brain wants you to eat
Science confirms that the brain actively fights back when you diet. It makes neurological changes so that food gives you a bigger rush of the reward hormone dopamine. That’s the same hormone that is released when addicts use their drug of choice.
Your brain sabotages you when you diet, when want to give up smoking or drinking, go to the gym, or start your own business. You name it.
Luckily, you can outsmart your brain in five steps:
- Be clear on why you want to achieve your goals
- Define what you want to achieve in measurable terms
- Break old behavioural patterns to deal with satisfying short-term needs
- Link your resolution to something higher than yourself
- Introduce small changes that make a difference
Use your hands to stay reminded. Hands are always visible, and you can use them to rewire your brain for success.
Here is how it works
- Thumb (up): Think about how you feel. What’s giving you pain? What things and issues in your life do you want to go away and why? Remember, while money can buy stuff, there is someone else out there who is happy with less than you have. Wanting more money is not a strong motivator unless you are clear about what you want to gain from it. It’s not the money you want, but the lifestyle you think it will give you. Likewise, someone who is heavier than you feels fulfilled in a relationship. It’s not the weight that you want to lose. Instead, you might want a trimmer body to look more attractive or a lighter body to make it up the stairs.
So, dig deep into your feelings to find your why.
- Pointer finger: Point to a new direction away from the problems. Remember your plans and the pleasure you expect from them. So, point your finger at a role model that lives the life that you want for yourself, repeat what that person does, and you will get the same results. Define the results in measurable terms. Don’t just state that you want to make more money. Write it down in terms of time and quantity, for example: ‘I want to have saved €10,000 by the end of the year.’ Then stick it on the wall where you see it every time. Good mind-hack: Keep a note in your wallet so that you read it every time you want to buy something that you do not really need.
- Middle finger (yes, THAT one): Disrupt. Break your patterns and routines to fit your role model. Where ever you are in life right now is a summary of actions that you have taken. Not going to the gym or not profiting from compound interest through investment are also actions. Break them and remember that your past does not define your future. Show your destructive behavioural patterns the middle finger and replace them with new ones. Take a brisk 30-minute walk in the morning, for example, and then see if you still want that cigarette with a cup of coffee.
- Ring finger: Put a ring on it. Marry your plans to a higher purpose. Make it about something bigger than yourself, such as the well-being of your family, your kids’ future, your ability to give back to your community, your faith, or anything else that has higher meaning to you. The newspapers are filled with stories of parents who made dramatic lifestyle changes after a health crisis because they wanted to be around for their kids for a bit longer. Use that same power of social accountability when you are at peak.
- Small finger: Make a small change, right now, that moves you forward. Maybe it’s just a phone call that you need to make or an email that you want to send. The repetitiveness of small changes is transformative. You will make better decisions over time. It’s like a muscle. The more often you exercise judgment, the better it becomes. Good judgment is a result of experience, and experience is, in turn, a result of bad judgment. So, don’t be afraid to fail, either. Just make small changes – all the time.
Remember that you are not your past until you die. You can move your life in a different direction in an instant. If you have ever made a decision that changed your life completely, for better or worse, you know what I am talking about. When was the last time you made such a decision? You can make it at any time. Make it now!